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Extra funding for sexual violence support service to target ‘hidden’ victims

Extra funding has been secured to bolster a team of specialists working to support victims of rape and sexual assault in Norfolk – with a particular focus on helping ‘hidden’ victims to access the service.

£178,000 of Ministry of Justice funding secured by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk will be used to recruit additional Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs).

ISVAs support victims of rape, attempted rape or serious sexual assault, whether it happened recently or in the past and whether the person supports a police investigation or not.

A team of 10 ISVAs provides support to victims through Norfolk’s Harbour Centre – a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) which gives men, women, children and young people access to immediate round-the-clock help, as well as ongoing tailored support.

The support that an ISVA provides will vary from case to case and will depend on the needs of the individual and their particular circumstances. ISVAs working with children and young people also offer support to non-abusing family members and carers.

As of January 2020, 568 people were being supported by the 10-strong ISVA team. Thanks to this new funding secured by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) office, that team will grow by 2.5 ISVAs over the coming months.

As well as adding to the team’s capacity to meet demand for support, the additional specialist workers will focus on increasing awareness of and access to the service among community groups identified as less likely to seek help.

So-called ‘hidden’ or ‘hard to reach’ victims may include those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME), people who have a disability, or members of the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community.

The new ISVAs will also work to encourage male victims of rape and sexual assault to seek help and access the support on offer.

Earlier this year, as part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Norfolk Police shared the story of Nigel who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. He spoke to the Harbour Centre many years after the abuse took place, and wanted to encourage other victims and survivors to speak up and seek help.

Announcing the funding for the SARC, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, said: “I have nothing but admiration for the Harbour Centre team and the work they do to ensure people who have experienced these truly heinous crimes get the support they need, deserve and are entitled to.

“That vital, first-class, free and non-judgemental help is available to everyone - regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, religion, disability or background.

“That’s a really important message, and one that the new ISVAs will be working with our communities, groups and organisations across Norfolk to share far and wide - raising awareness, removing barriers to accessing the service, and encouraging victims to reach out if they are in need of help.”

Claire Scholes, SARC manager, said: “We are keen to work in partnership with other agencies that already work with under-represented groups and have established relationships with clients and service users.

“The funding is a welcome contribution to the work we do and will help our service become more accessible, providing crucial research around barriers as well as training for staff to help open up our services even wider.”

Andy Coller, head of safeguarding for Norfolk Constabulary, said: “We are very pleased that this will build upon some of the work we have already started, such as highlighting male victims and survivors and encouraging them to speak out during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week earlier this year.

“We know there are under-represented groups and are pleased this funding will help others to gain access to the fantastic services the SARC offers.”

 

The Harbour Centre Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) offers free support and practical help to people of all ages living in Norfolk who have been raped or sexually assaulted either recently or in the past. 

For help and advice, please telephone the Harbour Centre's 24/7 helpline on 01603 276381 or email contact@theharbourcentre.co.uk.

More information about the Harbour Centre can be found at https://www.theharbourcentre.co.uk/