Designing a Facility with Victims of Sexual Assault in Mind

Posted by on May 13, 2022 in Behind the Design
Designing a Facility with Victims of Sexual Assault in Mind

More than anyone else, people who have been victims of sexual assault want a safe place to go to get the care they need. Designing a facility with victims of sexual assault in mind allows them to feel safe and possibly gives them the space to open up about what happened. Below are the highlights how ways to design a facility like this, to read the full article click here.

What Happens After the Trauma?

A survivor seeking emergency care can anticipate consultations with medical and social service providers, and interviews with law enforcement and criminal justice officials. Also can have a physically invasive and emotionally distressing collection of forensic evidence. Unfortunately, the result of this care and support for the sexual assault survivor is inherently complex, time-consuming, and often re-traumatizing. (Source)

New Design with Victims of Sexual Assault in Mind

Emergency facilities are typically equipped with professionals trained to deliver a medical and forensic response to trauma victims. There are two main ways that facilities can make small changes to design the facility. The first is to emphasize safety and the second is to give control and agency.

Emphasize Safety

In a well-conceived SARF plan, the sexual assault survivor is triaged in the ED and escorted to a decidedly nonclinical and natural-light-filled lounge. From the lounge, the survivor moves to a consult room and then on to a forensic exam room. Immediately following the forensic exam, the survivor has access to a generous bathroom and private shower. (Source)

To ensure that the survivor feels and experiences safety, the SARF is a single-function space. Whether the SARF is within or adjacent to the ED, designers should ensure that it maintains discretion in signage. For example, signage should conform with facility standards and be more akin to a facility support space. (Source)

Give Control and Agency

In the bathroom and wardrobe area, incorporating high-quality furniture, such as an oversized shower or an expansive vanity, helps deliver a private, intuitive, and generous experience. (Source)

To give survivors a sense of control in both areas, designers can incorporate individual lighting and audio control. They can also include access to a well-stocked food and drink amenity alcove, and electrical outlets to charge devices. Creating places for solitude, while keeping a survivor safe and stable, improves the likelihood of success for ongoing support and treatment. (Source)

Other articles from this author that are similar to this are Operating Rooms Designed to Benefit Patients and the Environment, Interior Designs With Health Care Workers in Mind, and Healthcare Design For Teens and Young Adults.

Marie Wikoff is the creator of Wikoff Design Studio based out of Reno, Nevada. Her expertise in healthcare design has helped modernize healthcare organizations locally, regionally, and internationally, improving patient experience and outcomes. Her credentials include Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designer (CHID), the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED AP. Contact Marie Wikoff

Source: Endres, Teresa, et al. “Design to Support Sexual Assault Survivors – HCD Magazine.” HCD Magazine – Architecture & Interior Design Trends for Healthcare Facilities, 6 May 2022,

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