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Cumbria Police launch walk-through video to support victims of rape and serious sexual offences

Today (November 16th), Cumbria Constabulary have launched a video to support victims of rape and serious sexual offences who may need to access the Bridgeway; the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

The launch is part of a month-long campaign to raise awareness of rape and serious sexual offences and the support services available to victims across the county.

The Bridgeway (SARC) is for people who have been victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse across Cumbria.

These services include the forensic medical service at the SARC, access to Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) support and therapeutic services which are provided by The Birchall Trust in Barrow and South Lakeland areas, and by Safety Net in the Allerdale, Copeland, Carlisle and Eden areas.

The video shows a step-by-step walk-through for victims of rape and serious sexual offences, to help them understand the process before they attend the SARC. The video was created jointly, by the Constabulary and Bridgeway staff, to offer assurance, provide helpful information and to build familiarity, for victims at an already traumatic and sometimes confusing time.

The Bridgeway (SARC) is a place a victim can attend by self-referring or after reporting a crime to the police. Attendance is completely voluntary. Whilst at the SARC professionals will provide the service user with the opportunity to, document any physical evidence such as cuts and bruises, undertake a forensic examination and access further, vital support services.

The video introduces the viewer to The Bridgeway (SARC), a Crisis Worker and an Examiner – these are the only two people a victim would meet when attending the centre (other than if they are already being supported by specially trained police officers who would attend with them).  The footage shows the rooms a service user will be in during the SARC process and gives a human side to a process that can seem clinical.

The opening scene sees the service user being welcomed to the SARC by a Crisis Worker, she explains that she is there to support them: to make sure they feel confident and in control of the process every step-of-the-way. She goes on to reassure them of how their anonymity is protected by the SARC. It is clearly evident throughout, how much the team at The Bridgeway are there for the service user and that the process is 100% victim led at every stage.

The video, which is accessible through the Constabulary’s website, is the first of its type and it is hoped it will give victims, worried about the process, confidence in accessing the service.

Constabulary Lead for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences, Detective Chief Inspector Jenny Beattie said: “Reporting a sexual offence can be a daunting time, so we are always looking for innovative, new ways to reassure and support victims. This is a great, user friendly tool, so people can see what happens for themselves.

“We work closely with the team at The Bridgeway; they are all amazing, caring professionals and how they work so well with victims gave us the idea to make this video.

“Those attending The Bridgeway have already been through enough, to be faced with collecting forensic evidence seems so removed and clinical, but at The Bridgeway they ensure this is done in a supportive and friendly way.

“Evidence is important to bring offenders to justice. The SARC is a premium facility. We needed to show victims that they will receive great support at a time when they need it.

“Once the video was made, it was clear it had multiple uses; not only to share with victims, but also with our officers to provide them with a more in-depth understanding of the process, so they can further support victims from that very first report.

“I hope the video provides the reassurance to people who maybe unsure what happens once they report something to the police or if they just need to reach out for some support before deciding whether or not to involve the police.

“If you have been the victim of a rape or sexual assault we would always encourage you to report it to police, so that we can help and support you. Your report will be taken seriously and investigated by specialist officers. However, there are a large range of support services that can be access regardless of if you have reported a crime to police or not.”

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “The Bridgeway Sexual Assault Support Services offers a vital lifeline to those who have been victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse in the county. We take any report of rape or sexual assault seriously and our dedicated specialists and investigators deal with all reports sensitively and professionally.

“This ‘walk through the services’ video with face to face messages from the specialists staff involved, will provide victims with valuable insight of what to expect and what is involved when they need to access help and support from the Bridgeway services. Anything that eases the distress of having to report this heinous type of crime can only be a good thing.

“I urge any victim of rape or sexual assault to come forward, they can be assured that there are services open and available. People can access the service directly and do not need to necessarily come through to the police. For example, Crisis support and clinical advice are available any time of the day or night via The Bridgeway’s free helpline, 0808 118 6432, whether someone has just experienced an assault or needs to talk to someone about it.”

Donna Cardell, Manager of The Bridgeway, said: “The Bridgeway services consists of a forensic service, Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service and counselling and therapeutic services that all work together to help a client who has been raped or sexually assaulted to recover.

“We have developed a gold standard of service to the people of Cumbria and this video is a great tool to show them the high standards they will receive.

“We work closely with the police to provide continued support to victims and give them the quality of service they deserve. When a walk-through video of The Bridgeway process was suggested I could definitely see the benefits. I would encourage any victim of rape, sexual assault or abuse reading to get in touch, we are here to listen you, to empower you and support your needs.”

The Bridgeway is supported by funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, NHS England, Clinical Commissioning groups, Cumbria County Council and District Councils.

For more information or to access the video, please visit: https://www.cumbria.police.uk/Advice-Centre/Personal-Safety/Rape-and-Sexual-Assault.aspx

To report an offence to police contact 101 or email [email protected]. Always dial 999 in an emergency. To seek support services, contact The Bridgeway on 0808 118 6432 or Victim Support on 0808 16 89 111 or visit cumbriatogether.co.uk.