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4 October 2011, 15:26 | Updated: 4 October 2011, 17:31
Greater care and support will be offered to victims of rape and sexual assault in Hertfordshire following the opening of the new Sunflower Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) which went opened on Friday, September 30.
Building on the existing 'victim focussed' provisions in the county, the new centre in Hemel Hempstead will ensure an even more effective service to victims. The SARC replaces the current centres in Cheshunt and Watford as it has a greater capacity and will allow even more victims to be helped at the same time.
Run by the County Community Safety Unit - the joint department between Hertfordshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire County Council, and the NHS, it is a 24-hour service and has been specially designed so victims do not have to visit a police station following the initial stages of an assault. Victims will be supported by trained Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, who will talk them through the options that are available to them and the victim can choose whether they want to involve the police or not.
Forensic examinations can be taken and stored, and evidence can be gathered so the victim can take the time to consider what they want to do. They will also receive healthcare support in terms of sexual health screening and access to a counselling service.
Assistant Chief Constable Alison Roome-Gifford, who opened the centre, said: "This centre has been designed to offer an excellent service to victims and to provide them with a safe, clean and comfortable environment for them to get help after they have suffered such a terrible ordeal. By working with our partners, such as the NHS, we are able to provide the right level of care and support that a victim needs and we are allowing them to decide what course of action they want to take, giving them control over the situation.
"If victims want to involve the police, they can be assured that specially trained officers will treat their case extremely seriously and will take every step to bring those responsible for the assault to justice."
Victims can also refer themselves to the SARC by calling 0808 178 4448. In order to preserve any evidence that may be present, it is vital that help from the SARC is accessed as soon as possible after an assault. Furthermore, victims who receive good immediate care, advice and support are found to recover more steadily, and are less likely to need ongoing counselling and long-term mental health care.
Hertfordshire Police Authority Chairman, David Lloyd, commented: "I am delighted to support the opening of this important facility in Hertfordshire. Sexual offences cause immense distress to victims, so having access to professional, specialist facilities are essential, both to support the victim and help bring offenders to justice."
To find out more information about the SARC and the services that are available, please visit www.herts.police.uk. Information and support can also be accessed via the Herts Sunflower website - www.hertssunflower.org. Remember, always dial 999 in an emergency.