Victims of sexual abuse let down by lack of referral centre
THE absence of a sexual abuse referral centre and crisis helpline has been identified as a critical gap in provision for victims of sexual violence.
Due to be debated at this week’s States meeting, the Justice Review Report, produced by Home Affairs, recognises the importance of establishing such a centre in Guernsey.
Talks between Home Affairs and Health & Social Care have begun.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey Victim Support and Witness Service welcomed the report’s focus on the importance of improving justice and protection for victims of crime.
‘We fully support the new justice vision, namely, “a society that contributes positively to the development of an understanding, inclusive and responsible community, where everyone is safe and secure and individuals’ rights are protected”,’ a service spokesman said.
‘From our experience over more than 20 years of supporting victims and witnesses, we recognise the importance of the principles behind the vision.
‘In particular that the future justice framework should shift the emphasis of policy to people rather than process – to support victims, witnesses and all parties in family breakdowns and should seek to address the harm caused to victims of crime using restorative approaches where appropriate.’
In the 12 months between June 2018 and May 2019, the service supported 344 victims and 467 witnesses of crime.
The two most common crimes for which victims were supported in 2018/19 were assault, at 30% of referrals, and burglary/theft at 22%.
This case make-up has remained fairly consistent over the past nine years, however sexual offences make up an increasing proportion of referrals.
The service drew particular attention to the idea of a referral centre in Guernsey that could provide a number of services for victims of sexual assault, including counselling, help with police interviews by way of crisis workers and forensic medical examinations.
All of these are provided at Jersey’s referral centre, Dewberry House, where child victims of sexual assault in Guernsey currently go if necessary.
‘We welcome the recognition of the importance of establishing a sexual abuse referral centre on Guernsey,’ the spokesman added.
‘The lack of such a resource has undoubtedly deterred victims of sexual abuse from reporting incidents.
‘The creation of such a centre on island would provide important support for victims as they come to terms with the impact of their ordeal.’
The report states there is some evidence to suggest that offences are more prevalent in the Bailiwick than shown by police-recorded crime figures.
The creation of a referral centre could be beneficial to those who have not reported the offences, have withdrawn their claim or it resulted in a non-conviction.
‘It is important that all those involved in the support of victims achieve a better understanding of the mental and wellbeing needs of victims and their families at all stages through the reporting and prosecution process and that they are able to access the necessary resources to meet those needs,’ the spokesman continued.
‘As an organisation we will provide support for all victims irrespective of whether or not they choose to report an offence, or, if having made an initial report, they subsequently withdraw support for further action.
‘The new justice strategy has been and continues to be a long time in development.
‘We hope that all States members, present and future, will throw their collective weights behind this report and will, without further delay, adopt the vision and the principles that it sets out as the basis for that long overdue justice strategy.’