The official opening of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre in County Durham has been marked.
The Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Joy Allen was joined by Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary Jo Farrell, NHS England and local authority representatives for the opening.
The official opening has been postponed for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic but under current regulations the site could be opened safely outdoors.
The event was opened virtually by The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, who addressed all partners involved in the development of the facility and how they have a unified commitment to delivering excellent victim care, striving to achieve positive criminal justice outcomes where perpetrators are held to account.
The facility was re-located in March 2020 to increase the accessibility of the centre with the commitment of the PCC, Constabulary, and other partners to continue to deliver high quality, tailored support for those affected by rape and sexual violence.
It has been developed as a safe place for survivors of rape and sexual assault for residents across County Durham and Darlington to disclose and seek advice.
Services that are offered include a forensic medical examination, advice, support, counselling, and sexual health screening.
Staff aim to provide help as soon as you feel ready, whether you wish to report the assault to the police or not. The service is free and available to both females and males.
The importance of responding appropriately and demonstrating a commitment to the needs of victims who have been subject to some of the most harmful and intrusive crimes is acknowledged by all local partners and the development of the site in County Durham is intended to be seen and promoted as a reflection of this.
Durham Constabulary have a good record of seeking and achieving justice for victims of sexual assault but continues to seek improvement by working with partners to ensure the best possible coordination of services to victims, that optimises their chances of successful prosecution.
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “This new SARC facility here in County Durham is essential for victims across the area.
“The centre has all the facilities required to offer victims of rape and sexual assault the best possible support and a gold standard of care and we need to see more of these centres across the country.”
Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen said: “As Police and Crime Commissioner I am committed to putting victims first and improving the experience of victims and witnesses.
“This new facility will ensure that support practical and emotional is available to victims to help them recover.
“By relocating, services will be more accessible and provide even more support to victims of rape and sexual assault.
“I have pledged to commission victim services to give people access to a range of specialist victim support services to help victims and their families cope with the impact of crime and recovery from their experience.
“This site offers comfortable and safe surroundings for victims across County Durham and Darlington to get support through specialised counselling.
“The centre is the commitment from my office alongside the Constabulary and other partner agencies to continue to deliver high quality, tailored support for those affected by rape and sexual assault”.
Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “Rape and sexual violence are some of the most harmful and harrowing crimes that we as police officers investigate – they devastate lives and are completely deplorable.
“It takes a huge amount of courage to come forward and seek help after being raped or sexually assaulted, which is why we are committed to providing the very best care and support to help victims and survivors to rebuild their lives and begin the recovery process.
“From the moment they step foot inside The Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre, to the moment they leave and beyond, victims and survivors are listened to, protected, treated with respect, and given the best possible care and ongoing support, whether they choose to report their ordeal to police or not.
“The centre is also equipped with specialist facilities to gather the most comprehensive forensic evidence to allow us to build and present the best possible case before a court and bring perpetrators of these dreadful crimes to justice.”
If you have been a victim of sexual violence please call 03333 448283 or visit themeadowsdurham.org.uk.