Learn about the NHS sexual assault support services available for men.

A new survey for the NHS shows that 23% of men would not know where to get help if someone had sexually assaulted or abused them. The worrying statistic was revealed as part of a new campaign to raise awareness of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs), of which there are 47 across England. As part of this campaign, SARCs has spent £20 million to highlight how survivors can access them whenever they need.

Society often overlooks male victims of sexual assault. Twenty-four per cent of male victims say they did not seek any help from dedicated organisations or services after someone abused, raped or assaulted them. Furthermore, 27% of men saying they would not tell anyone if they were a victim. Breaking this taboo has become even more urgent. This is due to concerns that the pandemic has hidden the current extent of sexual violence against both men and women.

The survey also reveals that many men are fearful of others judging or not believing them when they do come forward. SARCs hopes that this new money will highlight how they can help.

The importance of sexual assault support services for men

“It is so important for men, who are least likely to seek help and support, to be aware that anyone can access SARCs are available to everyone regardless of gender,” says Tania Woodgate, CEO of the Male Survivors Partnership.

Rupi Bhandal is National Sexual Assault and Abuse Services Programme Lead for NHS England. He says that more needs to be done to make men aware that help is out there and available right now. This is especially acute, as less than half of men surveyed realised support was available from the NHS.

 “We know that male survivors of sexual violence may not seek help and support through fear of people not believing them,” says Bhandal. “There are harmful societal gender norms and misconceptions such as ‘men can’t be raped’ acting as additional barriers.

“As a man myself, many male survivors ask me how to access these services. They also ask what is available for male victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse through SARCs. It is important for them to know that they can turn to us – no matter when the incident happened.

“We are here, and can provide confidential, immediate medical care, forensic examinations, blood tests and sexual health screening, and medication. We can also put you in touch with counselling services. Lastly, we can support you through the process if you choose to involve the police.”

How to get help if you have been sexually assaulted:

Coming forward if someone has abused, sexually assaulted or raped you, can be challenging and traumatic. SARCs are safe spaces where you can share what has happened without fear of judgement.

To find your nearest one, search ‘sexual assault referral centres’ or head to nhs.uk/SARCs for more information.

Words: Joe Minihane