Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Child and Adolescent Forensic Medical Assessment Services

We care for young people aged 14 and under who have been sexually abused.

If the abuse was more than 7 days ago, we care for adolescents aged up to 16 years. We can also help if there is a concern about child sexual abuse.

To be seen, you need a referral from the Gardaí, Tusla or another healthcare department.

People aged 14 and over can get help from a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit.

Emergency action required: If the child has urgent medical needs:

  • go to an emergency department that sees children

Find your nearest emergency department

If you think a child may have been sexually abused

Steps to take if you think a child has been sexually abused

  • Listen to the child.
  • Make sure the child is safe now.
  • Tell the child’s parents or carers (if the child is not yours).
  • If the parents or carers are the alleged abusers, contact Tusla or the Gardaí as soon as possible.
  • Don’t ask them probing or leading questions.
  • Tell them they are brave and that they have done the right thing talking about any abuse that has happened.
  • Report the abuse to the Gardaí by calling 112 or 999.
  • Contact a Tusla social worker in your area - Tulsa.ie

If the abuse happened recently

If the abuse happened in the last 72 hours, the child can have a forensic medical assessment. This is a type of medical exam to get evidence after sexual abuse.

The best time to collect forensic evidence is as soon as possible after the abuse. This is because forensic evidence deteriorates (breaks down) over time. Having this evidence helps the Gardaí to investigate the crime.

Forensic assessment for children under 14

The forensic assessment is done in a child-friendly environment. If you are the parent or carer, we encourage you to stay with your child for the full examination.

A parent or guardian must consent to the examination. The doctor or nurse will then carry out a head-to-toe physical examination of the child.

They will decide if any samples (swabs or hair combings) need to be collected for forensic evidence.

Children who have not reached puberty will not have an internal (speculum) exam.

On a case-by-case basis, the child or adolescent may be asked to:

  • have a blood test
  • give a urine sample
  • give their clothes to the Gardaí for forensic evidence - please bring a change of clothing for them if possible

Photographs may be taken to document the examination. This includes normal findings as well as any injuries the child may have. We use photography so that a child or adolescent only has to be examined once.

The results of the forensic assessment go directly to the Gardaí.

What to expect at a forensic assessment

This video shows parents and children what happens during a forensic assessment.

Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service - what to expect

Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service - what to expect

What to do before a forensic assessment

To make sure forensic evidence is not lost, after a recent sexual assault, encourage the child not to:

  • use any toilet tissue if they use the toilet
  • brush their teeth
  • wash or bathe
  • eat or drink

Do not worry if you can't follow any of these steps. We can still do a forensic assessment.

Support after a forensic assessment

During the forensic assessment, we will:

  • assess the child’s health and psychological needs
  • look after their urgent medical needs
  • give information and referrals for follow-up care such as therapy

You will also be referred to social services to make sure you and your child have the ongoing support you need.

If the abuse happened more than 7 days ago

We also help children and adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse more than 7 days ago.

We can offer them a health check and arrange any follow-up care they need.

Page last reviewed: 1 March 2023
Next review due: 1 March 2026