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Suffolk has officially opened new Rape Crisis services, including its first Sexual Assault Referral Centre, a Rape Crisis Centre and helpline.
Firstly, 'The Ferns' referral centre was opened this morning in Ipswich, the first centre of its kind in Suffolk since 2006.
It comes just after the start of the International 'White Ribbon' Campaign for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th.
The centre will give women and girls affected by sexual violence, a one-stop location which provides them with health care, counselling and support, without an obligation to report the incident to the police, while the helpline will provide support for women dealing with recent or historic sexual abuse.
Nationally, it is thought that a large number of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported and according to Rape Crisis services only 10 percent of women report rapes and sexual offences to the police.
It is also estimated that 1 in 10 women are sexually abused in their lifetime.
It is hoped that the new services offered will empower victims to access help and advice, even if they are afraid of involving the police.
The services were opened today by Baroness Vivien Stern who told Heart "Rape is a deeply damaging crime and rape victims should be treated well. I congratulate all those involved in the establishment."
Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Projects Team Manager for Suffolk Constabulary, Marianne Fellowes said "The opening of The Ferns is a very significant step forward in developing and improving services offered to victims of rape and sexual assault in Suffolk."
"Opening a facility such as The Ferns, presents new options to all victims and welcomes them into a supportive environment that is not police-led, but offers police assistance and investigation should they desire this.
"We have been working hard with our partners to bring together first class expertise, facilities and equipment so that the centre can respond to any victim of rape or sexual assault.
NHS Suffolk, NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Constabulary, the Crown Prosecution Service and Victim Support were able to come together to set up the services after they received funding from the Home Office in 2009.
In 2010 Suffolk police received 267 reports of rape and 349 reports of sexual assault.
The Ferns centre will be fully operational, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from early 2011.
There us already a similar centre which opened in Norfolk back in September.
A new rape crisis centre has also opened in Ipswich today which will serve the whole of Suffolk.
Suffolk Rape Crisis will provide specialist support services to meet the specific needs of women and girls affected by sexual violence.
Ipswich has not had a rape crisis centre since 2006.
Kate Drury is one of the SRC development workers and said, "We have a new telephone helpline service for the women of Suffolk who have experienced sexual violence and highly trained volunteers who will be answering the calls."
“Our provision will include emergency support for women and girls who have been recently sexually assaulted, as well as support for women who have suffered childhood or historic sexual abuse. The centre also aims to offer face-to-face counselling services as soon as funds and staffing permit."
She added, "Women respond to sexual trauma in a variety of ways. Responses can include depression or self-harm, and women who have been the victim of sexual trauma can find themselves facing homelessness, unemployment, isolation and discrimination. Many of the women who ring rape crisis help lines have been unable to tell anyone in their family or close friends about the trauma."
SRC can offer confidential support in order to give women informed choices about their futures and to help them lead lives free of sexual violence and its effects.
The helpline is opening on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7.00-9.30pm. The number is 0800 0850 520
Suffolk Rape Crisis expect that there will be a high number of calls: it is envisaged that the helpline will be opening more frequently as additional volunteers are trained.
Anyone interested in being a volunteer should email email@example.com