The Haven: a pilot referral centre in London for cases of serious sexual assault


* Dr J. Welch, Department of Sexual Health, Caldecot Centre, 15–22 Caldecot Road, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK.


Objective Several schemes have been reported to improve treatment of rape and to encourage reporting. The development of a comprehensive forensic and follow up service for complainants of sexual assault is described, and activities of the first year are reviewed.

Design Retrospective review of case records of complainants examined in The Haven.

Setting Department of Sexual Health in a London teaching hospital.

Sample All case records, 676 complainants, from the first year of cases seen in The Haven.

Methods Description of setting up a service in partnership between the National Health Service and the Metropolitan Police, called The Haven. Analysis of a standardised proforma used for case records.

Results Mean age of complainants is 26 years (range 11–66); 6% were male. Assailant was categorised as a stranger in 52% of cases; attack involved physical violence in 50% of cases; 24% of victims had genital injuries; 39% had other physical injuries. Immediate care given at time of forensic examination included 30% of women receiving emergency contraception and 5% of clients receiving post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV. Fifty-five percent of clients returned for a sexual health screen and/or counselling. Thirty-one percent received screening for sexually transmitted infections and 12% were diagnosed with one or more infections.

Conclusions Requirements following sexual assault include forensic examination, first aid, postcoital contraception, prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections and psychosocial support. Provision of these services within a sexual health setting is feasible.