Cambridge clinic provides free support and medical care to survivors of sexual harm

The Cambridge Clinic is a free, 24/7 service for anyone aged 13 years or older who has experienced sexual harm either recently or in the past. Cambridge Clinic is dedicated to helping survivors of sexual harm. The clinic provides a safe, non judgemental and confidential space for patients to seek help and regain control over their lives. They provide both medical care and emotional wellbeing support.

They can also offer forensic assessments, which involves the collection of forensic samples that may assist in a police investigation. This may be appropriate if the assault was less than 7 days ago and the patient either wants police involvement or is unsure about police involvement but wants to keep their options open. The clinic sees many patients who are unsure about whether they want the police involved, and the clinic can walk survivors through their choices without any pressure to involve police.

“Unfortunately, sex doesn’t always happen with consent. Sexual harm is a serious issue that affects many people in Aotearoa. Sexual assault doesn’t always occur in the way people expect and the majority of survivors of sexual harm have been assaulted by someone they know and the assault often doesn’t involve any form of physical violence. Sexual harm commonly occurs when someone is unable to provide consent. This may be due a number of reasons, but is most commonly seen when someone is impaired by alcohol or drugs that may have voluntarily or involuntarily consumed,” said Jess Tucker, Clinical Director of Cambridge Clinic.

Patients can refer themselves to the clinic, or referrals may be made by police, a healthcare provider or support services.

The clinic offers a holistic package of care to survivors that may include referrals to other organisations or professionals, such as social workers, ACC, AVIVA or mental health services, including the Pegasus Health Rongoā Kōrerorero Talking Therapy programme. Cambridge Clinic is patient-led, and whilst the provision of some information back to a patient’s general practitioner (GP) is encouraged, this is only done with the survivor’s consent. Some patients prefer their GP not to know, and the clinic respects their wishes.

“People are often carrying a lot of weight over what happened to them, they often have concerns around whether they themselves are to blame in any way,” Jess said. “We just want to help lift that weight. We often see people walk out of here a lot lighter than when they arrived.”

The clinic’s mission is to give control back to survivors after sexual harm. “Even if they’re in doubt about whether they’ve been sexually assaulted, we can still see them and provide support,” Jess said.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harm, you can contact national hotline Safe to Talk on 0800 044 334 or text 4334, or visit the Cambridge Clinic website for more information.