New free service to support victims of sexual assault

Thursday, 11th June 2020

A NEW free service has been commissioned for Staffordshire, which will help victims of sexual assault and abuse – and their family members and partners – recover from the impact of the crime and the harm they have experienced.

The tailored, confidential service forms part of an integrated system of effective support at each stage of the criminal justice process, from the victim reporting the crime or recognising they need support, through to them exiting the service.

It is designed to be accessible, simple to navigate and prevents victims from having to repeat their story on multiple occasions.

Commissioned by Staffordshire Commissioner Matthew Ellis with an investment of £300,000 per year for the next two years, the free service will be delivered by Staffordshire Women’s Aid, in collaboration with providers Pathway, Victim Gateway and Savana.

Mr Ellis said: ‘It is vital that victims of sexual assault and abuse can get the effective support they need when they need it.

‘This new service ensures victims are at the very heart of the criminal justice process, providing essential emotional and practical support to them and their families in a way that is tailored to their individual circumstances and needs.’

The new service will be open to males and females from the age of four, and will offer:

  • A ‘cope and recover’ specialist support service for victims, including tailored advice, guidance, information, practical and emotional support and group work
  • A counselling service for victims to support empowerment, resilience, risk reduction and recovery
  • A support service for victims’ close family members and significant others
  • Geographically based staff to ensure coverage across the county
  • Onward referrals to other specialist support agencies.

The service will operate across Staffordshire (not including Stoke-on-Trent) from 1 October, with an opportunity for a further two 12-month extensions after the initial two years.

Dickie James, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Women’s Aid, said: ‘We are so very pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Commissioner in taking this new service for victims of sexual assault and abuse forward.

‘It is an important investment which conveys the message that sexual abuse and violence is not acceptable and that victims have a right to a specialist service. Our service will reach out to adults and children across Staffordshire, providing specialist support to enable them to cope and recover, as well as supporting their family members.

‘I am proud that Staffordshire Women’s Aid will be working alongside the Commissioner and other partners to achieve this.’

Supporting Victims and Witnesses is one of five key priorities included within the Staffordshire Commissioner’s Safer, Fairer and United Communities Strategy (2017-2020).

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If you have been sexually assaulted, whether as an adult or a young person, it is important to remember that it wasn’t your fault. Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Don’t be afraid to get help.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, there are services that can help. You don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to. You may need time to think about what has happened to you.

However, consider getting medical help as soon as possible, because you may be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you want the crime to be investigated, the sooner a forensic medical examination takes place, the better.

Try not to wash or change your clothes immediately after a sexual assault. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police.

Where you go for help will depend on what’s available in your area and what you want to do. For specialist medical attention and sexual violence support, whether you decide to have a forensic medical examination or not, your first point of call is a sexual assault referral centre (SARC).

The following services will also provide treatment or support, and can refer you to another service if you need more specialist help (such as a SARC):

  • a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery
  • a voluntary organisation, such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault)
  • the free, 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247
  • the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)
  • a hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department
  • a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
  • a contraceptive clinic
  • a young people’s service
  • NHS 111
  • the police, or dial 101
  • in an emergency, dial 999