Remember: Disclosing an incident of sexual violence is in itself an act of reclaiming control – this is why it is crucial that the survivor be at the heart of all decisions relating to their assault. If the survivor does not want to take emergency action, do not force them to do so. Doing nothing is as valid a response as attending a SARC centre, the hospital or going to the police.
Remember: Some interventions have a deadline.
testing for drugs after a suspected spiking incident: within 12-72 hours
get PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent acquiring HIV after a high-risk exposure: within 72 hours
take emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after an incident: within 3-5 days
go to a SARC to collect forensic evidence after sexual assault: within 7 days
Mental Health Emergency
A confidential, 24/7 free hotline providing emotional support to anyone in distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout Great Britain and Ireland.
Call 116 123
see their website for webchat
Offers short-term additional support out of hours for people in Oxfordshire, who are over 18 and experiencing a mental health crisis. Fills the gap between Samaritans and A&E.
Call 01865 903037 (5pm - 9pm)
Also available in Banbury
Call 01295 270004 (5pm - 9pm)
Other Health Emergency
Even if a survivor chooses not to report or have evidence collected, they may still need medical attention. They can get medical attention without disclosing that sexual violence occurred. A&E and GUM clinics cannot collect forensic evidence, but may be able to record other evidence of sexual assault (e.g. bruising).
If you're not sure what to do, call 111.
It is available 24/7 and is the hub for healthcare services. You will be able to talk to specially-trained NHS staff and get health advice and/or redirected to the service you need.
If you need to go to A&E, NHS 111 will book an arrival time. This might mean you spend less time in A&E.
The Oxfordshire Sexual Health Service (OSHS) provides STI testing (with or without symptoms, in-clinic or at-home self-test), PEPSE after HIV exposure, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and vaccines. Free-of-charge, confidential and you don't need to use your real name.
Book a consultation by calling 01865 231231 and selecting option 4. Alternatively, email ouh-tr.OxfordSTI@nhs.net and include your name, date of birth and phone number.
OSHS is closed in the evenings, on weekends and on public holidays. If you need out-of-hours care, call 111. You may need to go to an out-of-hours clinic or A&E.
The main GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic in Oxford is in Churchill Hospital, Old Rd, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LE.
To go to an A&E, first call 999 (if it's life-threatening) or 111.
Someone needs go to an A&E if they:
are seriously injured
are experiencing feelings of self-harm or suicide
may have been spiked and are experiencing loss of consciousness, dizziness or nausea
may have been exposed to HIV (they need PEPSE ASAP to prevent infection)
they need urgent STI care (e.g. severe symptoms) and the GUM clinic is out-of-hours
The A&Es in Oxford are open 24/7 and free-of-charge. They are located in:
John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU
Horton Hospital, Oxford Rd, Banbury OX16 9AL
Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) are the only specialists able to collect forensic evidence, allowing survivors the flexibility to choose to report to police in the future, even if they aren't ready to right now. Having evidence can really help build a case (and clarify to the survivor what happened), especially in cases where the survivor has difficulty remembering or suspects that drugs were used.
You can visit a SARC up to 7 days after the assault happened. The earlier you visit, the better. The greatest opportunity to collect forensic evidence would be within three days of the assault.
SARCs offer a range of crisis services to people of all ages and genders, including forensics (evidence collection), emergency contraception and certain preventative treatments (e.g. post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection; hepatitis B vaccine). They can also arrange referrals to an independent sexual assault advisor (ISVA) and other specialist sexual violence support services, as well as to mental health, sexual health and general medical support.
The service is confidential. This is no expectation to report to the police. Forensics can be stored for up to two years.
There is no expectation or obligation to report to the police if you visit a SARC
The closest SARC in Oxford is called Solace. They have two locations, one in Bicester and one in Slough. Bicester is the closest.
You can find out more about them on their website, www.solacesarc.org.uk
IMPORTANT: call the Solace SARC 24/7 hotline 0800 970 9952 before travelling to their location to alert them of your journey. You will do an informed choice session with an advisor to discuss your options.
In some colleges, you can get a free taxi to Solace by calling your Porter's Lodge and asking for "a Solace taxi." These include:
Lady Margaret Hall
The address of Solace SARC (Bicester) is: Solace SARC, Police House, Queens Avenue, Bicester, OX26 2NT
Things to Avoid
washing, showering, bathing
brushing your teeth
washing your clothes
cleaning up the area where it happened
Things You Can Do
put any evidence (like dirty clothes) in a paper bag to bring with you
bring a person with you to the SARC for support (e.g. a friend, family member or welfare person from your college)
There are 2 types of emergency contraception:
the emergency contraceptive pill (the "morning-after pill")
the intrauterine device (IUD or coil)
They must be taken within 3-5 days after sexual intercourse. The earlier, the better.
Where to Get Emergency Contraception
Most students are registered with their college-associated GP clinic. Check with your college about which GP to go to. Your college nurse can help.
Make sure to tell your nurse and/or GP that you need emergency contraception when you call to make the appointment. That way they know you need to be seen as soon as possible.
If you choose to go to a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) for a forensic medical examination, they will also be able to give you emergency contraception.
The closest SARC in Oxford is:
Solace SARC (Bicester)
IMPORTANT: call 0800 970 9952 before heading to Solace SARC to alert them of your journey.
For more information, visit www.solacesarc.org.uk
The Oxfordshire Sexual Health Service (OSHS) can give you an urgent same-day/next-day appointment and provide the appropriate emergency contraception, free-of-charge. The service is confidential and you do not have to provide your real name.
Find out more on their website here.
As emergency contraception is an urgent request, book a next-day/same-day consultation by calling 01865 231231 and selecting option 4.
You can get emergency contraception from some pharmacies, for free (if you are under 21) or for around £25-35. You can apply to get this refunded by your college welfare team.
Find the nearest emergency contraception provider to you by using the NHS Locator Service.
Pharmacies in Oxford include:
Boots Pharmacy (Cornmarket St)
01865 247 461
6-8 Cornmarket Street
Woodstock Road Chemist
01865 515 226
59 Woodstock Road
01865 243 824
11 Old Marston Road
Reporting to Police
If you are a survivor and want to contact the police that is completely ok, and if you don’t that is also completely ok and if you’re unsure that’s also ok! Deciding what you want to do after experiencing sexual violence is completely up to the survivor and no choice is preferable over another.
In Oxford, the police service is the Thames Valley Police.
"If you’ve been the victim, please report rape or sexual assault as soon as possible. Even if you’re not 100 per cent sure, we’d sooner hear from you so that we can make sure you’re safe." - Thames Valley Police
Thames Valley Police tends to also refer people who have reported rape and sexual assault to Victims First. You can get support directly from Victims First or find out more by visiting their website or calling 0300 234 148.
The police can provide a Specially Trained Officer (STO) to work specifically with survivors, an STO can:
Take the survivor to a SARC
Attend & support through the SARC forensic medical examination
Advise on options in facilitating the decision to press charges or not
Maintain contact through investigation and legal procedures
We highly recommend getting an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) before reporting to police, as they can help you understand and navigate your options. Importantly, they can also accompany and support you in meetings and when you give statements.
You can get an ISVA via Solace SARC or OSARCC (provides an Oxfordshire ISVA and Oxford University ISVA).
The Oxford University ISVA exclusively supports Oxford University students in successfully navigating the legal and justice system, including reporting procedures on a college and university level. They are employed by OSARCC and work alongside the University Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service, but are completely independent of the University, your college or any other agencies and will not share information with these groups without your consent.
People can be referred to the ISVA by themselves (self-referrals) or by a concerned party with the student's permission (third-party referrals). Email OxfordUniISVA@osarcc.org.uk or call 01865 725311 (open Monday to Friday).
Speaking to the police
It is best to report as soon as possible. However, you can report sexual violence at any point, even years after the event.
Things to know!
You can have a translator and/or signer for any part of the police process
You can bring a family or friend, however, they shouldn't be a potential witness
The process will be done at your pace
You can stop the process at any point
You will not be judged
Your safety will be considered and appropriate measures to maintain your safety will always be put in place
You are legally guaranteed anonymity from the press and public
You can access support at any time during the process and it will always be given to you
You can also go through the police after using a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) to collect and store evidence
Authors: Nicola Sharp
Last updated: 01 February 2023