Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS) are gradually developing across Nigeria to provide much-needed support for individuals who have been affected by one form of sexual assault or the other.
But what exactly are they meant to do when dealing with these individuals?
Below, we look at the functions of SARCs and identify the types of support they can provide.
Immediate emergency medical treatment.
This includes the immediate treatment of any obvious injuries sustained during the assault.
Forensic medical examination service.
This involves the assessment of the individual with a view to secure the collection of material and information from the survivor that may become evidence in a future criminal investigation.
Immediate and ongoing counselling support.
This is a crucial element in recovery as the mental and emotional trauma of sexual assaults remain for a longer period after the physical effects have healed.
Management of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
This key aspect of sexual assault addresses the infection of the survivor by germs transmitted via sexual contact (eg Hepatitis, HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea etc). Dealing with this straightaway helps to alleviate some of the health burden associated with sexual assault.
Provision of emergency contraceptives.
The risk of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy following a sexual assault of a woman is significant; and also bears a huge emotional, physical and financial burden.
Provision of Post-exposure prophylaxis/referral to ART centres.
One of the STIs that can be contracted after a sexual assault is HIV. We know that the use of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) as soon as possible after suspected exposure is considerably effective in preventing HIV - when administered correctly (though not 100%). In addition, starting anti-retroviral treatment as soon as possible confers better health outcomes to the survivor.
Involving the Police
Support in contacting the police, social welfare department, or CSOs where appropriate and where the survivor requests it - this is a crucial aspect of surviving asexual assault. Sexual assault is a crime, and it is important to identify and punish offenders to prevent them from repeating these acts. Having social welfare will also provide emotional support to a survivor in getting through this challenging experience.
Ongoing support throughout any police investigation and prosecution is also available.
So these are the areas of engagement that are covered at SARCs.
Please contact us if you need any further information.