National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week
This week we mark sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness; crimes which are sadly too prevalent today.
Thankfully, it’s weeks like this one which raises awareness so victims can know where to go to get help.
It's well known and accepted that sexual assault needs a multi-faceted approach in order to set individuals on a positive path to recovery. Women and men have the same physiological responses during trauma and can go on to develop complex symptoms of psychological trauma, so it's important to ensure that early intervention is 'trauma informed' and recognises the risks posed to an individual.
At the Swindon and Wiltshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), crisis workers and nurses are on hand 24/7 in order to help survivors navigate through the complex journey following a sexual assault.
As a multi-agency "one-stop-shop", individuals can access a range of support in the early stages following an assault, either via the police or by calling the service themselves. When someone calls the SARC, a trauma informed crisis worker is ready to respond and listen in a non-judgmental way. The crisis worker will offer to book the caller a time to visit the SARC, between 8am and 8pm, any-day of the week.
On arrival, the crisis worker will greet the survivor and ensure they are aware that they are in control of the support and can make decisions about what happens at the SARC.
The nurses are on hand to provide early preventative medication for pregnancy, HIV and Hepatitis B, as well as assess any injuries. The nurses also offer a forensic medical examination to obtain DNA as evidence if an individual chooses to report to the police, a process which is always completed with the complainant in control.
As the SARC is independent from Wiltshire Police, people who attend can receive the full service and have the option to report to police within two years of their appointment. If someone chooses not to report to the police, any samples are destroyed at two years. Even if a person is reluctant to have the full support on offer at the SARC, they are encouraged to call or consent to the SARC calling them. In the early days following a sexual assault a person may not know what their options are or what they need to be aware of - they are often in a state of trauma. As a result, they must have early access to someone who can do this thinking for them.
It's essential that regardless of what sort of assault has been carried out, survivors are encouraged to access help early, and are assured that the staff at the SARC will provide specialist support.