U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Sexual Assault Referral Centers: Developing Good Practice and Maximising Potentials

NCJ Number
Jo Lovett; Linda Regan; Liz Kelly
Date Published
July 2004
118 pages
This report--one of a series of reports on British pilot projects implemented to support victims in the aftermath of rape--presents findings of the evaluation of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC's), which were established to ensure a high quality of forensic practice with rape victims combined with crisis intervention and advocacy.
The first SARC was established in the United Kingdom in 1986, with four additional SARC's founded in the early 2000's. An additional eight SARC's are scheduled to be opened by the autumn of 2004. A crisis worker meets with those rape victims who come to the SARC and explains all the processes of the Centre. Informed consent is obtained for the forensic examination, which is conducted by a team of forensically trained female examiners. The evaluation explored the contributions of SARC's to the reporting of rape and/or dealing with its immediate aftermath, along with their contribution to improving criminal justice system responses. A multimethodological strategy was used to link quantitative and qualitative data. The base sample was composed of 3,527 cases that were tracked prospectively through the criminal justice system. Subsamples of victims/survivors agreed to complete a series of questionnaires and indepth interviews (n=228). For this group, police statements and forensic reports were also examined where possible. These data were supplemented with interviews with key informants and police officers (n=143). Data from the evaluation pertain to who reports rape to the police and accesses SARC's; the nature and quality of forensic and medical services; support, advocacy, and counseling; whether SARC's made a difference for users; and the future of SARC's. The vast majority of those using SARC's were female (93 percent). The majority of SARC referrals were from the police, although one-fourth were self-referrals. The evaluation concludes that SARC's increased access to services and support for a proportion of those who did not report their rapes to the police. Regarding forensic and medical services, on a variety of measures service users rated the environment and conduct of the forensic examiner in integrated models highest. A range of immediate, short-term, and longer term support options were provided by the SARC's. Counseling was accessed by between one-third and two-thirds of SARC users, and most of those who used this service valued it, with a proportion noting that it should not be time limited. Across all forms of support, a majority of participants expressed a preference for female staff. Regarding future development, the evaluation advises that the emphasis of SARC's should shift to a more flexible, practical support that includes the proactive provision of information and advocacy services. An "ideal" model is described that covers the overall framework, the range of services, forensic practice, and interagency links. For the future of SARC's the evaluation advises that the development of national protocols and standards for SARC's will be important in the development and achievement of consistent good practice. 7 tables, 9 figures, and 40 references