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10 December 2018

Vital new support available to victims across the South West as reports of sexual offences double in eight years

To mark Human Rights Day and the final day of the international 16 Days of Action movement, Public Health England and partners across the South West are urging survivors and local organisations to seek tailored local support to tackle or overcome the impact of sexual abuse and violence.

  • The number of victims reporting sexual offences to the police has more than doubled in the past 8 years
  • In the South West reports have increased by 65% - from 518 in 2010/11 to 1,480 in 2017/18.
  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims
  • Today (10 December) marks Human Rights day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person.

Sexual abuse and violence take place at all levels of society, regardless of age, social class, race, religion, sexuality or disability. Over the past eight years the number of sexual offences recorded by police across the South West has increased by 65% - from 518 in 2010/11 to 1,480 in 2017/18.

The increase in reports of sexual offences is thought to be driven by improvements in recording practices and a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report crimes, including non-recent victims.

However it's estimated that 83% of victims will not want to report an assault to police - and an estimated 28% of women who experience rape or sexual abuse will tell no one - so numbers could be significantly higher.  It has never been more important to provide a local source of support and guidance for survivors, their families or friends, and health professionals.

Public Health England worked with Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse (SARSAS), and the Office for Sexual Health, with funding from NHS England, to develop the South West Survivor Pathway.  It is an invaluable online resource designed to support professionals working with survivors - and their families, friends, colleagues and employers - to help them access services across the South West.   

The website signposts to a huge range of specialist organisations accessible to anyone who has experienced sexual violence and abuse.

Lara Snowdon, Public Health England South West Violence Prevention Lead says:

"The South West Survivor Pathway brings together the range of specialist sexual violence services from the across the South West. The resource is broken down by local authority and was developed with people who work in the sexual violence sector.

"The aim of the website is to provide a trusted source of information that is regularly updated, is practical and easy to use for professionals working with survivors, and for survivors and their families who are looking to access support.

"We want to reassure people who are using the site, that we do not ask for or collect any personal information about you so you can feel confident that the site protects your anonymity.

"We know how daunting it can be to navigate through the health system to know how to get support and we hope this website will make that journey much easier. These services are often vital in rebuilding lives and acknowledging the long-term effects of sexual trauma".

One of the specialist organisations and a member of the service is The Bridge, Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Bristol.

Nicky Shannon, Manager for The Bridge, says:

"To mark human rights day and the final day of the international 16 Days of Action movement, we at The Bridge encourage survivors and organisations to seek tailored support for all the communities impacted by sexual violence.

"Just as domestic violence can be experienced by anyone, regardless of gender, ethnic identity or sexual orientation, so too is sexual violence.

"One in six males are thought to experience sexual violence, yet this and male experience of such violence are often overlooked, both in the provision of care services and in the public arena. 

"To address this unmet need we at The Bridge have been actively transforming our service provision for all survivors who identify as male, for several years and offer a range of specialist services specifically addressing males' needs.  

"Our SARC and therapeutic services are now some of the first of their kind to be working towards accreditation for their Male Service Standards."

Claire Bloor, CEO for Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Service (SARSAS) says:

"The trending #MeToo movement and high profile sexual abuse cases mean that more survivors than ever are coming forward and seeking help.

"We know that survivors often first disclose abuse to their GP, police and other primary care providers.

"The Survivor Pathway gives professionals the peace of mind and ability to respond and provide appropriate advice and signposting to specialist services for survivors."

Survivor Pathway Website