Guernsey Press

Sexual assault referral centre helpline to open

GUERNSEY’S first sexual assault helpline will launch in exactly one month on 1 October and will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Manager Charlie Cox, second right, has been joined on the staff at the sexual assault referral centre by, left to right, Savannah Goddard, Emma Cusack, and Kimberley Carre. Behind are Home Affairs president Deputy Rob Prow and member Deputy Sue Aldwell. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32476399)

It will be the first service to start as part of the States’ new Sexual Assault Referral Centre, which is due to open above Choices at the North Plantation on New Year’s Day.

The centre will be for anyone who has experienced something of a sexual nature which they did not want to happen, whether recently or historically.

Survivors and victims will be able attend the centre for an evidential examination as an alternative to going straight to the police.

‘The helpline will be the first contact many victims and survivors may have had with a professional to talk about what has happened to them,’ said centre manager Charlie Cox.

‘Staff have been trained to respond in a trauma-informed way and the public can be assured that their views, wishes and feelings will be central to the support they receive.’

Although the independent forensic examinations do not launch until January, Ms Cox said the impact of the helpline from 1 October should not be underestimated, as some victims want guidance and support rather than an examination.

The centre has taken on five crisis workers who will monitor the helpline all day, every day.

They have undergone training with LimeCulture, a national sexual violence and safeguarding organisation based in the UK.

The centre said that a call to the helpline may rarely go unanswered, but only if someone else is being supported on another line, and calls will always be returned as soon as possible.

Home Affairs president Rob Prow said his committee had wanted to see the helpline launched and the centre opened as a priority during this States term.

‘We are fortunate to have a police force in Guernsey that takes any kind of sexual offence incredibly seriously. However, we also know that, for victims, it can sometimes be very intimidating approaching the police in the first instance,’ said Deputy Prow.

‘The centre offers an alternative to this that will still ensure the right advice is offered and the correct evidence gathered, so offenders can be brought to justice.’

The phone number for the helpline and a new name for the centre will be announced later this month.