BACKGROUND: Reported sexual assault is increasing, and the diverse immediate and longer term needs of the victim are usually met by exposure to a number of healthcare professionals often in different locations, involving delays and travel, increasing the trauma for the victim. OBJECTIVES: To set up a centre to address the immediate and longer term needs of the sexual assault victim and review issues arising during the development of the service. METHODS: Description of setting up the service in the genitourinary medicine department of Kings College Hospital, south London, and the aspects of care offered. RESULTS: The number of victims referred by police increased from 15 in 1992 to 58 in 1996. In 1996, 55 female and three male victims were seen. 23 different police stations brought victims for examination; mean age of the victim was 27 years (range 14-60), median time between assault and examination was 22 hours (range 3 hours-3 months); 23% had genital injuries, 59% had other physical injury, and 11% needed further hospital care. 71% accepted screening for sexually transmitted infection (STI), 21% had an STI diagnosed, 16% of the women required emergency contraception, 26% received prophylactic antibiotics, and 58% saw a health adviser. 70% had a follow up appointment arranged of which 50% attended. CONCLUSION: The high uptake of STI screening, emergency contraception, health adviser consultation, and follow up supports the concept of a comprehensive integrated system to meet the disparate needs of the victim while still obtaining the necessary forensic evidence. The wide catchment area of service users indicates gaps in services available for the assault victim. Earlier genitourinary involvement after sexual assault is becoming increasingly pertinent in relation to HIV prophylaxis.
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