A new team of crisis workers has been deployed at a top-secret base in the county which supports victims of rape and sexual assault in the wake of their attacks.
The expert team are now in place at the Sunflower Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Hertfordshire – the exact location of which cannot be revealed due to the sensitive nature of its work, but it provides a safe and comfortable environment where victims can receive help.
When a victim of a rape or sexual assault reports the incident to the police, they attend the centre for a full forensic medical examinationwith support provided by the eight new highly trained workers.
Centre manager Sandra Lewin said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome eight new crisis workers to the team, who will give invaluable support to victims and the overall running of the centre.
“The crisis worker will be at the SARC to open and prepare the premises. They will also be able to explain the process, give support to victims where necessary and liaise with the police and a forensic practitioner.
“Victims will also be told of what will happen during their time at SARC and the crisis workers will explain what care is available once they leave.”
The team will be available 24/7 on an ‘on call’ rota basis for all police forensic medicals carried out at Sunflower.
Training and costs associated with the crisis workers has been covered by a funding application from the Hertfordshire Criminal Justice Board on behalf of the police and crime commissioner’s office.
Det Chief Insp Fiona Gaskell from the county’s safeguarding command says the new development will go some way to help victims of a crime which is still under-reported.
She said: “Rape and sexual assaults are devastating crimes which have lifelong impacts on victims. We welcome the team of crisis workers who will be present at the centre to provide invaluable support to victims following such harrowing experiences.
“Although we have seen an increase in reports of rape and sexual offences, we still believe it is under reported.”
The crisis worker role has already received positive feedback from police and medical professionals since its introduction at the centre last month.
Crime commissioner David Lloyd said: “My vision is for a more victim-centred criminal justice system in Herts so this new team has my full support.
“Sexual offences can be devastating for victims so it is vital that they have the right support and that their report is dealt with sensitively and compassionately.
“This new team will bolster that support.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of rape or sexual assault, call 08 08 178 4448 or visit www.hertssunflower.org.