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What happens at a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit

A Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) is a safe place to go if you have been raped or sexually assaulted.

We look after all genders and gender identities, aged 14 years and over. If you're under 14, you can get help at Child and Adolescent Forensic Medical Assessment Services.

We can help if you have experienced unwanted sexual contact of any kind. We can also help if you cannot remember what happened but think you may have been sexually assaulted.

You can bring a friend or family member with you if you want to. All SATU care is free.

How we can help

A SATU can offer you:

Your healthcare needs are our priority. We will offer you a health check whether you decide to have a forensic exam or not.

Go to a SATU as soon as possible

We will offer you medication to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. This medication works better when taken as soon as possible.


If you want the rape or sexual assault to be investigated, you should get a forensic exam as soon as possible. This is because DNA evidence deteriorates (breaks down) quickly.

Health check

We will offer you a health check whether you decide to get a forensic exam or not.

Health checks vary from person to person but they can involve:

  • examining, treating and documenting your injuries
  • giving medications to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • organising your sexual health test - you can come back to us to get tested for STIs
  • getting you referrals for any other support you need


During your health check, we will explain the different medication you may need.

These include:

  • emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy - you can take this up to 5 days after an assault
  • antibiotics to prevent the risk of STIs
  • vaccines to prevent hepatitis B
  • medication to prevent HIV (PEP) - you need to take this within 72 hours (3 days and nights) after a possible exposure to HIV

Forensic exam

This is a type of exam carried out to get evidence following a sexual assault or rape.

We can take forensic samples up to 7 days after a rape or sexual assault.

There are 2 options for forensic exams at the SATU:

  • When you want to report the assault and give evidence to the Gardaí straight away.
  • Where you need some time to think about whether to report the assault. We can store the evidence for up to one year and the Gardaí will not be present.

What happens during a forensic exam

If you were assaulted more than 7 days ago

You can still go to a SATU for care if you were sexually assaulted more than 7 days ago.

Although it's too late to get forensic evidence, we can still do injury mapping. This is where your injuries are assessed and documented in case you want to report the assault to the Gardaí.

We can also help with sexual health testing and give you referrals for any other help you may need.


If you're over 18

We will keep your details confidential. This is unless there's a concern that you or anyone else is at risk of serious harm.

But if there's a Garda investigation linked to the assault, evidence may need to be shared in court. The Gardaí will talk you through this process if needed.

If you're under 18

By law, healthcare professionals have to protect children from harm. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted and you’re under 18, it has to be reported to Tusla and the Gardaí. This is to keep you safe and to provide you with support.

Why we have to report sexual abuse if you’re under 18 -

You will need to have a parent or trusted adult with you at the SATU. This is because sexual assault is a crime and we need to make sure you are not in any further danger.

If you are worried about telling your parent or guardian, we can help by discussing your options.

For help, contact any of the below:

Who you will meet at a SATU

SATU staff are trained in caring for people who have been sexually assaulted. You will be cared for in a respectful, non-judgemental environment.

Our team includes:

  • an experienced nurse, midwife or doctor who is trained as a forensic examiner
  • support staff (a nurse, midwife or care assistant)

There may also be:

  • a volunteer from the Rape Crisis Centre or ASSC - they can support you during your visit, in total confidence
  • a Garda - only if you would like them to be there or if you are reporting the assault

SATU video

After being at a SATU

Recovering from sexual assault takes time. It is important to look after yourself and to accept care and support from others.

Support services

A support worker from the Rape Crisis Centre or ASSC will be available to support you. They will give you information on follow-up care available to you when you are ready.

Accompaniment services

An accompaniment service can be helpful if you would like someone to be with you at the Garda station or in court.

The Rape Crisis Centre also offers this service. You can call the 24-hour confidential helpline any time. Freephone: 1800 77 88 88

ASSC offers onsite court accompaniment services in the Dublin region. This is for all young people under 16 who are victims of crime or a witness to a crime. A SATU will arrange this accompaniment service for you if you are interested.

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