Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs)
Who is the SATU service for?
In Ireland, there are six Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) and they are located in: Rotunda Hospital, Dublin; Nowdoc premises, Letterkenny; Galway, Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar; Waterford Regional Hospital, Waterford; and Victoria University Hospital, Cork.
The services vary from unit to unit and thus it is recommended that your local Rape Crisis Centre or Gardaí be the first port of call for those wishing to avail of sexual assault treatment services.
Who is the SATU service for?
This service is offered following a rape or sexual assault, to anyone over the age of 14 years who has reached puberty. If you are less than 18 years of age, you must have a parent or legal guardian with you. This is because he or she will have to sign consent (give permission) for the forensic clinical examination.
What is a Forensic Clinical Examination?
This is a special type of exam that is carried out to get evidence following a rape or sexual assault. It is done by a specially trained doctor or nurse.
When is a Forensic Clinical Examination carried out?
It can be carried out up to seven days after a rape or sexual assault.
What if it is more than seven days since the rape or sexual assault?
The time limit for a Forensic Clinical Examination to be useful for collecting this type of legal evidence is seven days. However, even after seven days the staff in SATU can still help you by:
- Dealing with your worries.
- Performing a general health check.
- Organising follow up care, if required.
Why is a Forensic Clinical Examination carried out?
A Forensic Clinical Examination is carried out for a number of reasons. These include:
- Assessing how you feel physically (body) and psychologically (mind).
- Doing a urine pregnancy test on all female patients.
- Giving emergency contraception and other medications if necessary.
- Giving information about testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
- Your health history
- Details of the incident
- Any injuries you may have received
- Saving forensic samples to get any evidence that may be present following the assault (This is why your clothes may be needed).
- Carrying out an ano-genital examination (examining the anus and/or penis, vagina etc.)
What to do if you go for a Forensic Clinical Examination
- Do not wash beforehand.
- If you were assaulted in your mouth, do not eat, drink, smoke or use toothpaste or mouthwash before samples have been taken from your mouth area.
- Do not wash the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault. Take them with you if you have changed or take a change of clothes with you as your clothes may be kept for examination and evidence.
What staff will be involved?
- Forensic Examiner - This can be a nurse or doctor
- A Member of An Garda Siochána. They must be there for legal reasons if you are having a forensic examination. They are not present if you are not reporting the crime to them.
- Assisting nurse chaperone - This is a nurse who is present and helps during the examination
- A Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) support worker
All of these people will be aware of how difficult this is for you; however the Gardaí must have all of the information and forensic evidence in order to charge the person who assaulted you.
What if I change my mind once I go to the SATU?
- You control what happens in the Unit.
- You can choose not to go ahead with the exam.
- You can stop the exam at any time.
- The staff will always respect and support your wishes.
Find your local Rape Crisis Centre here. You can contact the national helpline on 1800 77 88 88.