Sexual assault referral centre to open sooner than expected

A NEW sexual assault referral centre will be opening sooner than expected, after being listed as a priority in the Government Work Plan earlier this year.

Deputy Yvonne Burford’s amendment calling for a Sarc was approved in March, with 34 deputies voting in favour and one abstaining. It was later added to the GWP as a potential priority for the term. (30235772)
Deputy Yvonne Burford’s amendment calling for a Sarc was approved in March, with 34 deputies voting in favour and one abstaining. It was later added to the GWP as a potential priority for the term. (30235772)

A 'Sarc' will provide medical and emotional support to victims of rape or sexual assault, including children, and can provide the service user and the police with an opportunity to recover evidence should the service user wish to report the incident – which is not a requirement of using the service.

Home Affairs came to a unanimous decision to look at ways of speeding up the introduction of the centre, currently set for 2023.

Deputy Yvonne Burford’s amendment calling for a Sarc was approved in March, with 34 deputies voting in favour and one abstaining. It was later added to the GWP as a potential priority for the term.

She was pleased to hear of the announcement, but said that it should have happened sooner.

‘The funding was approved in July so it really is past time to start working with specialist organisations to make this happen. There is much experience in the third sector for the committee to draw upon to enable this to be put in place very quickly.'

The Domestic Abuse Strategy policy letter is still to be put to the States, despite the Scrutiny Committee being advised in June that it was ‘ready to go’ as soon as funding was approved the following month.

‘Nevertheless, as the resolution and the funding for the Sarc already exist, the delay on the policy letter should not prevent work commencing right now to get the centre up and running as soon as possible,’ said Deputy Burford.

Child victims of sexual assault in Guernsey have to travel to Jersey for forensic and medical examinations, but the introduction of a Sarc would require the appointment of a trained paediatrician who could conduct examinations on-island.

Home Affairs president Rob Prow said the centre would be open as soon as possible.

‘Violence against women and girls, and any form of inappropriate violence and behaviour, are areas that are extremely important to the committee. We have been looking at what we can do to help strengthen the offering Guernsey has when it comes to both supporting victims and preventing these offences from occurring in the first place.’

About 400 women and girls experience sexual assault in the island every year.

Home Affairs is also in early talks with Education about introducing an annual presentation to young people about violence and intimidation against women before they are old enough to go to pubs and clubs. This year women’s safety concerns were brought to the forefront of national media after 33-year-old Sarah Everard was abducted and killed in London by a policeman.

Home Affairs member Sue Aldwell said: ‘Nationally, tragic incidents in the past year have only shone more of a spotlight on this issue, and it is clear we need to do as much as we can to help women and girls feel comfortable when they are enjoying themselves in the community. Everyone deserves to be shown respect and it is unacceptable that some people don’t show that respect to others. Together with our island’s law enforcement officers, we are committed to doing what we can to change that.’

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