The New Swindon Sanctuary, the sexual assault referral centre at Gablecross, has experienced a surge in self-referrals since the Jimmy Saville scandal erupted in October 2012, with some months showing up to a four-fold increase on the usual monthly average.
Centre manager Jools James-Kempshall, left, said: “Apart from the usual spikes at Christmas or during the festival season, we are normally dealing with about eight or ten referrals each month.
“But we have had as many as 40, as a result of the Saville effect; in February we conducted 15 medical examinations. It doesn’t necessarily mean there are loads more assaults or rapes occurring, but a lot of people want to talk about what has happened to them in the past.”
With a team of crisis workers available 24 hours a day and two dedicated independent sexual violence advisors, the centre provides full emotional support for victims, from reporting the incident, all the way through to court proceedings. It also acts as a point of contact for the police and the genito urinary clinic.
“We are responsible for the whole of Wiltshire, which has a population of 684,000,” said Jools. “The only other comparable service is in Trowbridge.
“We are equipped to support women, men and children and young people who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused. People often forget that boys are just as vulnerable as girls, with the added complication that they can also be the victim of false allegations.”
Contact the 24-hour emergency number, 0808 168 0024 newswindonsanctuary.co.uk
Children and young people benefit from information on abuse
Social media and constant online interaction has put children and young people more at risk than ever of sexual bullying and abuse, but Swindon-based children’s independent sexual violence advisor Val Haddrell is clear that accurate information is the best defence.
Val, who is based at The New Swindon Sanctuary, said: “Children and young people are facing things online all the time – not just at school and on the way home.
Jools and Val at The New Swindon Sanctuary
“They’ve got it on Facebook and other social media sites. It’s a lot to cope with and can lead to mental health problems, self-harming and even suicidal intent.
“Children need to be taken seriously and listened to. If there is sexual abuse occurring, it is often too difficult for families to confront, with parents suffering guilt and anger.
“The New Swindon Sanctuary can support children, young people and families with one-to-one support over the phone, face-to-face or by text.
“We are offering schools the opportunity to run focussed assemblies on the topic of healthy relationships and what to do if sexual abuse or assault is taking place. These are available for years 7 to 13, and are offered in an age appropriate manner, with the choice to opt out if preferred.
“Each time we have delivered a school assembly we have received referrals at the centre, which goes to show that this is a service young people need.”