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Victims of sexual abuse encouraged to come forward during awareness week

The Harbour Centre. Photo: Antony Kelly

The Harbour Centre. Photo: Antony Kelly

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010

Victims of sexual abuse and violence are being encouraged to speak out as Norfolk Police supports a national week-long campaign to raise awareness.

Sexual abuse and sexual violence awarenessweek takes place across the UK from today (February 5) until Sunday, February 11, with organisations across the county raising awareness of how to prevent it, using the hashtag #itsnotok2018.

A state-of-the-art sexual assault referral centre (SARC) facility named the Harbour Centre was opened in Norwich in 2010 aimed at giving men, women and young people access to round-the-clock support and to allow victims to talk about their abuse.

It provides a non-judgemental service regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, religion, disability or background and offers medical examinations without police involvement following recent rape or sexual assault. However, if at any time a victim decides to talk to police, this can be arranged.

It also offers the opportunity for people who suffered abuse in the past to come and talk with trained crisis workers to discuss what happened to them and to see what support they may need to aid their recovery.

The SARC has just relaunched its website which offers detailed information to victims about the type of services and support offered. The site also offers an area of professionals, aimed at the likes of GPs and teachers, with information on referrals and how people can seek support.

Temporary detective superintendent Andy Coller, head of safeguarding at Norfolk Constabulary, said: “Sexual abuse and violence can have devastating and long-lasting effects on the victim.

“There are many myths surrounding this type of crime which often leads people to believe that perpetrators and victims are strangers, when in fact they are usually known to one another.

“Therefore, it is crucial both men and women are aware of what constitutes abuse and the help that is available to them here in Norfolk.

“Speaking out is the first step and services are available at the SARC, which allows information to be taken confidentially and in a comfortable setting.

“We understand that victims can sometimes feel too afraid to approach the police to report offences, but we hope the ‘self-referral’ route will encourage those to at least seek help and advice.”

The SARC is jointly funded by Norfolk Constabulary and NHS England and has supported more than 3,100 victims since it opened.

Specially trained, experienced professionals provide:

· Sexual health information and referral services for STI/HIV testing

· Referral for counselling and psychological support

· Information about reporting to the police and judicial processes

· Forensic medical facilities

· Post-sexual assault follow-up care

· Support through the criminal justice system

· Practical support and referrals to other community services

· Consultation services to other professionals

Claire Scholes, SARC Manager, said: “Sexual violence can have a severe psychological, emotional as well as physical impact so it’s vitally important that people living in Norfolk are aware of what specialist services are available to them.

“Whether the abuse happened recently or in the past, the key thing we offer is choice; it is vital for people to feel in control of the decisions they choose to make going forwards.

“We know how difficult it is for someone to come forward and talk about what has happened to them but we are here to listen so please get in touch if you think we can help.”

The SARC offers ongoing specialist tailored support to people using the service through crisis workers and independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs). They play an important role in supporting children, young people and adults who have experienced rape and sexual assault, irrespective of whether they have reported to the police.

Crisis workers are on hand to provide immediate support as well as responding to calls to the 24/7 helpline.

The support that an ISVA provides will vary from case to case and will depend on the needs of the individual and their particular circumstances. ISVAs provide impartial information to victims concerning their options, including making a report to police, accessing health services such as sexual health screening and specialist support such as counselling. ISVAs also provide information on other services the person may require including health and social care, housing, or benefits.

Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Lorne Green, who recently announced increased funding for support services for sexual abuse survivors in the county, said: “I have nothing but admiration for the Harbour Centre team and, while I wish their services weren’t needed, it’s comforting to know that this first-class help and support is available for victims. It is however vital that, as well as supporting victims, we all work together to raise awareness of what constitutes abuse and identify how we can prevent it.

“The crimes these people have experienced are heinous and having taken that monumental step to seek help we owe it to them to ensure the specialist services they need are available, which is why my office recently announced extra funding for the Sue Lambert Trust which provides vital support to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault.”

During the awareness week, messages encouraging victims to come forward will be shared on Norfolk Police’s website and social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag, #itsnotok2018.

Anyone who would like to speak to someone in confidence about sexual abuse or violence can contact Norfolk Police on 101, staff at The Harbour Centre on 01603 276381 or via the email address contact@theharbourcentre.co.uk.

There is also further information at www.norfolk.police.uk or www.theharbourcentre.co.uk

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