Vital lifeline for rape victims

Victims of rape or other serious sexual assaults could be given a vital lifeline after plans were unveiled for a new one-stop service. A Sexual Awareness Referral Centre (SARC) could be set up within months to help rape victims access medical treatment, counselling and advice and it is likely to include a telephone hotline number.

Victims of rape or other serious sexual assaults could be given a vital lifeline after plans were unveiled for a new one-stop service.

A Sexual Awareness Referral Centre (SARC) could be set up within months to help rape victims access medical treatment, counselling and advice, and a telephone hotline number.

Campaigners hope the centre will make the process of reporting and being counselled after a rape more bearable for victims.

In 2005-06, 223 rapes - about two a week - were reported in Norfolk, but it is estimated this represents just 15pc of the total and the actual figure is more likely to be 1,500.

Sue Spooner, SARC project co-ordinator, said the idea was for the service to work alongside police and use existing facilities, but that victims would be under no obligation to launch criminal proceedings.

She said: "The plans are in the early stages, but there would be a hotline number for victims to call which would be managed by a SARC manager.

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"The victim will be given access to a crisis worker who will talk to them in their chosen location. Support will be given and counselling sessions arranged.

"Victims can also assist the police in investigating their attack and there are forensic examination facilities on site."