The South Yorkshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) opened its doors to victims of sexual assault in April 2016. Since then it has supported 653 victims of reported crime and 50 self-referrals.
The SARC funded by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings is based in Sheffield in a disused police station, now refurbished in to a welcoming facility fit for a victims needs. The building has been designed and furnished to offer the best facilities for those needing to access the service, to avoid victims feeling like they are visiting a police establishment or hospital.
On Friday, 10 November, Mountain Healthcare the SARC service provider, invited local professionals along to show them inside the building and explain how the service works.
Dr Alan Billings was there to meet with the visitors and see for himself how the funding is providing forensic examinations facilities for victims along with wrap around care and support.
He said: “The South Yorkshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre is part of a regional service offering support to those who have been raped or sexually assaulted. We have forensic practitioners and support staff who are here to listen to the victim and put them first.
“Some victims may not wish to report to the police at this stage and would just like to talk through what has happened to them, access support and leave the decision for a later date. Others may wish to find out what the next steps are and bring their offender to justice.
“The building where the SARC is housed was once an unused police station that has now been renovated. There are two examinations rooms, interview rooms, a family room and areas where a victim can sit and talk to support workers.”
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre has recently finished the second phase of the refurbishment and now houses a full victim support service.
The latest addition is a video link to Sheffield Crown Court. This now means the extremely vulnerable victims can give their evidence from a remote location.
Dr Billings added: “The installation of the video link now means that vulnerable victims do not have to give their evidence in court. Re-living a crime can be extremely traumatising for a victim and even more so when only feet away from the person who caused them harm. This link is for victims that would find the court process very upsetting.
“The secure link can also connect to other courts across the country and can be used if travel is also an issue for a victim.”
Victims can access the service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Victims from Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield can come to the South Yorkshire facility. As this is a regional facility if victims prefer to travel to West Yorkshire or Humberside, they can do so if that is their choice.
If a victim would like to talk to a support worker or access the services provided at the South Yorkshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre they can call 0330 223 3193 or visit http://www.hackenthorpelodge.org/