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More North Yorkshire Sex Assault Victims Urged To Come Forward


8:50am 20th November 2013
(Updated 11:09am 20th November 2013)

Since opening just over six months ago, North Yorkshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) has seen 22 victims of sexual crime contact the centre directly.

However, staff are keen to see more victims use the services of this important facility which is available to all men and women across North Yorkshire and the City of York.

The SARC - known as Bridge House – opened on 1 May 2013 and is designed to provide victims of sexual crime with help, support and options rather than having to report directly to the Police.

Specially trained staff can talk victims through the support available to them which will continue along whichever route they choose to take.

The ability for victims to self-refer to the centre means that they do not have to speak to the police if they do not want to, say SARC, allowing time to explore every option available to them before deciding which route to take. All calls and messages to the centre are dealt with by SARC staff and victims can phone or email the centre initially.

Medical facilities also mean that if appropriate, early forensic evidence can be obtained for use in future criminal cases if a victim is unsure of what to do in the early stages, say SARC.

SARC Manager Sarah Murphy, said: “It’s satisfying to know that the SARC has helped 22 victims in the six months it has been open, but we are keen to encourage more people to contact us who have been victims of sexual crime.

“It’s important that victims know we are not police officers and that they can contact us directly – this is known as self-referring – which means exactly that. All you have to do is phone or email Bridge House and we will take everything at your pace. 

“Victims will not be pressurised or forced to do anything they don’t feel ready to do. We provide a neutral, yet homely environment where victims can seek the specialist advice, support and help they require without entering a police environment. Our medical facilities also mean that any early evidence can be secured without victims having to go direct to the police.”

Ms Murphy added: “There is no historical cut off point for reporting sexual abuse – whether it happened yesterday or 50 years ago – you can still come to us for help.

“Rape and sexual assault are devastating crimes which can have life-changing effects, not only for the victims but also their families. If a victim does not want to pursue a criminal investigation or if there is not enough evidence, Bridge House can still offer support and services to victims  and help them move on with their lives.”

To date, four out of the 22 victims who have contacted the SARC have gone on to make a formal complaint to the police. Detective Inspector Karen Warner who oversees the management of the SARC said:  “ This is a really good reflection for the service that victims feel they have the support and confidence to take the step to make a formal complaint to the Police.

“I have been dealing with victims of rape and serious sexual assault for over 20 years now.  The SARC is such a positive move for all victims within North Yorkshire.  It enables them to receive help and support at a time when they may be in turmoil and gives them control and choice.  It’s important that all victims are aware the service is not just for those who live within City of York, but for everyone within North Yorkshire.”

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire added: "I championed this centre shortly after my election last year because I was committed to putting victims at the heart of North Yorkshire Police’s services. Going by the testimonies from victims, the centre is already making a positive impact on people's lives. It’s also really encouraging to see that this is leading to an increase in the number of people coming forwards when they are assaulted.

“There’s still a lot of work to do in encouraging more people to go directly to Bridge House for the support they need, when they need it. However, everyone who has worked so hard to open the service can be rightly proud of a very promising first six months and the difference they are making for victims.”

To contact Bridge House call 01904 669339 or visit www.turntobridgehouse.org

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