Earlier this week I met with those behind the campaign to have a one stop shop for women, men and children who have experienced sexual violence. I’ve been in contact with the campaigners for a while and have already signed their online petition . The Centres are called Sexual Abuse Referral Centres and at present the nearest one is Slough. I’ve heard a moving story about how difficult it is to be the person driving a friend all the way from Reading there, let alone be the person making the trip.
I’ve promised to bring a motion to full council about it and I’ve also got the backing of the rest of the Reading Labour party for the campaign. I’ll also be raising this directly with the police and NHS professionals as well as working with Reading Labour’s excellent women’s officer Rachael Chrisp (for followers of my twitter feed, yes another Rachel/Rachael for Labour!):
Reading Labour party press release below:
Reading Labour Party is giving full support to the campaign for a Sexual Abuse Referral Centre, or SARC, for the town, says Rachael Chrisp, the Party’s Women’s Officer and Labour candidate for Park Ward.
A SARC is a one stop shop where victims can go with or without police involvement, and have access to counselling, be referred for health services and undertake forensic examination, yielding the evidence the police will need if the victim makes a complaint then or later.
Rachael Chrisp, who learnt of the St Mary’s SARC in Manchester when she worked as a front desk enquiry officer for Greater Manchester Police before moving to Reading, says “Rape is a hugely traumatic experience which can leave the victim feeling bereft and alone, very much in need of support which is what a SARC gives. I remember the one in Manchester as being crucial both for support and for obtaining forensic evidence. But the nearest SARC is in Slough, and driving or taking a train to another town and having to find your way around there is just not what a victim of rape, or other sexual assault, needs. A local group has launched a campaign for a SARC in Reading, and Reading Labour Party is offering them every support.”
The Party is urging members and supporters to sign the national e-petition the Reading group has started which calls for a SARC to be established in every town with a population greater than 120,000:
Rachel Eden, Lead Councillor for Housing & Neighbourhoods, has met with the group and has pledged to put a motion to the next meeting of the Council calling on NHS Berkshire and Thames Valley Police to work with the Council on a plan for a Reading SARC. “There were 151 ‘serious sexual offences’ reported to the police in Reading in 2010-11,” she says, “and sadly I am sure a number of other offences went un-reported. The detection rate was 25.8% which is better than it has been but not as great as one might wish. By bringing services together we can ensure both a better use of resources and better support for rape survivors.”