Survivor perception that healthcare services are unsafe is a significant barrier to seeking care. This perception can be a result of previous negative experiences, systemic discrimination, and victim blaming (BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre and Ending Violence Association of BC, 2023). Healthcare providers are often the first professional contact for survivors; however, survivors rarely disclose any information about the assault when accessing care (Mason and Du Mont, 2015). Using a trauma-informed, survivor centred approach can help healthcare professionals care for survivors in a safe, compassionate and empowering way. Being trauma-informed is a way of providing services that recognize and understand the impacts of trauma and the root causes of violence. A trauma-informed approach supports the resiliency and recovery of survivors and avoids re-traumatization (Randall and Haskall, 2013). A survivor-centred approach means prioritizing the rights, needs, and wishes of the person who has experienced harm (UN Women, 2022), recognizing that survivors are the experts in their own experiences (Rentschler et al., 2022), and supporting the survivor’s own solutions.

Survivor Rights and Consent

Survivors have a right to complete medical care whether or not they decide to have forensic samples collected (Sexual Assault Service, BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre and Women Against Violence Against Women, 2017).

Survivor Confidentiality

Police should not be called by healthcare providers about patients that have been sexually assaulted (Fraser Health, n.d.).

It is the survivor’s choice to decide if, and when, they want to report the sexual assault to the police.

Support with Medical Care and Forensic Exam

Survivors may have overwhelmed by all the decisions they are making, including giving fully informed consent to medical care and/or forensic exam, because of the trauma of being sexually assaulted distressed (Manning and Mana, 2022).

Questions? Contact our Community Coordination for Survivor Safety (CCSS) team at ccss@endingviolence.org.