For more than 8 years a centre dedicated to supporting victims of sexual assault in Wiltshire has been open 24-hours-a-day helping thousands of people.
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), based at the New Swindon Sanctuary in The Gables, South Marston, Swindon, offers victims of both sexes and of any age support, counselling, medical care and forensic examinations.
In recent months, the centre has seen a large rise in the number of historic sexual abuse victims coming forward in light of the highly publicised national cases. In an average month, the centre deals with approximately 10-12 new cases and 10 historic cases.
Staff at the centre can also help victims with reporting incidents to Wiltshire Police if needed.
For a variety of reasons victims are often scared to report such offences; they may be concerned about undergoing an examination, having to relive the ordeal and the reactions of family and friends.
The centre works in partnership with Wiltshire Police and NHS England. It is managed overall by the social enterprise responsible for health and adult social care services in Swindon, SEQOL.
Centre Manager Jools James-Kempshall said: “Our biggest challenge is raising awareness of the scope of support that we offer at the centre. Many people are unaware that the SARC offers a free and specialist clinical care and follow-up service for victims residing in Swindon and Wiltshire.
"The SARC does not just refer to a building, but embraces a range of assessment and support services in close partnership with other established local agencies. We have people of all ages and backgrounds come through our doors and all are treated with the same respect and professionalism.
“We provide a safe place for victims of sexual assaults to come and receive the help and support they deserve. We offer a wide range of services at the centre from helping victims through a forensic examination to offering professional counselling.
“ I would urge anyone who has been the victim of any sort of sexual assault to contact us at any time of the day or night and ask for our help.”
Wiltshire Police lead for Rape and Sexual Offences Detective Sergeant Julie Law said: “SARC do a brilliant job in supporting victims from the moment they make contact with them. They provide a huge support to women, men and children who have been subjected to a sexual assault.
“Wiltshire Police is dedicated to reducing incidents of sexual assault and we have formed a very strong bond with SARC to help us achieve this.
"To be sexually assaulted is a very traumatic and devastating experience and we treat all victims will the utmost respect and care. We understand that it is difficult to speak about the ordeal and will do all we can to ease the process.
“Anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault should speak out – be this through SARC, by calling Wiltshire Police or by calling Crimestoppers where information can be left anonymously."
The 24-hour telephone number for the SARC is 0808 168 0024 or log onto www.newswindonsanctuary.co.uk for advice and information.
To report a sexual assault, you can also contact Wiltshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously.