A centre which works with victims of sexual assault on Teesside has just marked seven years since its opening.
Helen Britton House, the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), in North Ormesby has helped hundreds of male and female victims since September 2007, whether in the hours and days after an assault or with historic allegations of assault or abuse.
Victims can access the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year and SARC staff can take information and evidence from victims without the police having to be involved or even informed – though victims have the right to change their mind at any stage and make a later complaint to police.
Most victims who do report a sexual assault to the police will be brought to the SARC.
Specially trained staff offer forensic, medical and psychosocial support and information and agreed a care pathway with clients. This could include referral into specialist services such as sexual health or counselling.
To mark the centre’s seventh anniversary and to help make more people aware of its services SARC Teesside has launched a new website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
SARC manager Sue Smith said: “In our first year of operation we had 200 individuals access the SARC. In the last financial year we had more than 450 clients through the service and we aim to increase the numbers further, particularly for those people who have not reported to the police.
“We know that sexual offences can impact upon people in different ways and we also know that stranger attacks are extremely rare. There are many myths out there in society and consequently many people do not tell anyone about their experience.
“The SARC team has provided dedicated support to victims and witnesses which has rightly earned them the reputation of providing a first class service within a centre of excellence.
“With 24/7 cover 365 days a year victims can be assured that they will receive the required support as and when they need it regardless of whether or not they wish to report to the police.
“There are many more options available to victims now that SARCs exist and we will continue to promote the service and reassure victims that regardless of the circumstances they are not to blame.”
Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger added: “The SARC is an essential facility for victims of this most serious crime and it is vital that victims are aware of the services and facilities offered there. The support the centre offers victims in their greatest time of need is second to none and I applaud the work carried out by the dedicated staff.”
Victims can contact the 24/7 helpline 365 days a year on 01642 516888.