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Don’t Suffer in Silence this Christmas

Victims of sexual assault and sexual violence are being urged to come forward this Christmas. During December, the number of incidents of domestic abuse and violence rise significantly. For some people, Christmas can be the most dreaded part of the year. People do not have to suffer in silence and feel they have to cope alone. Specialist support services are available and can be accessed directly, as well as through the Police.

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

These services involve the forensic-medical service at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (IDSVA) 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.

In the last 12 months up to October 2019, 142 people have been referred for an examination at the SARC, of which 28% were under 16s, 264 have benefitted from therapeutic services and 209 people accessed advice from Victims Support’s IDSVA service. The Bridgeway staff also refer people onto other services, as appropriate to their needs.

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall comments: “ I welcome the fact that more people have the confidence to come forward and be supported. We take any report of rape or sexual assault seriously and our dedicated specialists and investigators deal with all reports sensitively and professionally.

“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.

“When people receive the right type of support at the point of need, they are more likely to take positive steps to recovery.”

Over 75% of victims who used Safety Net and Birchall Trust’s Bridgeway therapeutic services in the last year reported an improvement in their well-being by the time they had completed their support and 82% of service users working with an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor said that they had seen an improvement in their well-being.

Donna Cardell the Bridgeway manager comments: “All of the Bridgeway services encourage feedback. This is to ensure that the level of care and support offered is unique to that client and aids their recovery.”

Detective Chief Inspector Jenny Beattie, Cumbria Constabulary, said: “The Bridgeway Sexual Assault Support Service is an excellent service for victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse in the county.  

“I would encourage anyone who is a victim of any sexual offence to report it to police, so we can investigate and provide you with the appropriate support. Contacting the Bridgeway is also an excellent alternative, as they also have specially trained staff and support services.

“I would like to provide reassurance to any victim that reports what has happened to them to police, that they will be treated with the upmost sensitivity and respect. Every report to police is subject of thorough investigation and victims will be supported throughout the investigative process.”

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