Sarc progress is good, but must be maintained

THE progress being made in the development of a sexual assault referral centre is a stand-out feature of the work carried out by this States, little more than a year since the general election.

We learned this week that the ‘Sarc’ – which offers medical and emotional support to victims of rape or sexual assault – will now be opening sooner than expected after the Home Affairs Committee reached a unanimous decision to expedite its introduction before the scheduled date of 2023.

At the beginning of the year the Sarc was on Home Affairs’ agenda, but well down on it.

The kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in the UK, and the local reaction to this, undoubtedly assisted Deputies Yvonne Burford and Sasha Kazantseva-Miller in their push to progress it.

The local response to a crime, described at the time as ‘abhorrent’ by the head of Bailiwick Law Enforcement, was almost unprecedented, and as the murder continued to focus in news bulletins with subsequent arrest, trial and sentence of police officer Wayne Couzens, so momentum has been maintained.

The Sarc appears to have overtaken many of the original priorities in the Government Work Plan.

Whether driven by the power of protest or simple political will, Home Affairs appears to have grabbed this issue and should now take it to a place where campaigners will be confident that law enforcement does have such matters upmost in mind, and can be trusted to take each report seriously.

As Home Affairs president Deputy Rob Prow said this week: ‘Tackling the issue of violence against women and girls – an issue which encompasses spiking, groping, domestic abuse and so much more – is something that is very important to us.’

As head of law enforcement Ruari Hardy has said, it is ‘unacceptable’ for women to feel unsafe in the island. ‘We need to listen to our community and work together to foster greater support for women, and give them reassurance that they will be safe.’

Despite a fear that its options would be either too limited or heavy-handed, Home Affairs and Law Enforcement appear to be taking best steps forward.

They can be sure that momentum will need to be maintained until all women do rightfully feel safe on a night out.

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