An innovative project giving extra support to victims of sexual harassment and violence has been backed by Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Steve Turner.
Middlesbrough-based charity ARCH Teesside will run the pilot, which starts next month.
The project will improve support for victims, who have reported experiences of sexual harassment and violence to Cleveland Police.
Ultimately, the aim is for more victims to report incidents. This will give a clearer picture of sexual harassment and violence across Cleveland.
It will also show the barriers, which victims face in reporting incidents and getting support afterwards.
During the pilot, specially-trained staff will call victims after receiving reports from Cleveland Police.
If further support is needed, the ARCH Life Enhancement Skills Advisory (LESA) service will pick up the referral, arrange an assessment and provide support.
If the victim’s needs are better met elsewhere, staff will provide information and signpost the person to the most appropriate services.
Services provided as part of the 18-month pilot are non-clinical and totally independent.
They are aimed at making sure victims get the right support and information. The pilot also aims to safeguard victims and make sure their voices are heard.
Focus on the impact
Staff will focus on the impact of the incident on victims rather than the offence itself.
That means some eligible victims may not have received further police support when they reported the incident initially. They also may not previously have been referred to support services like ARCH.
This new approach recognises that what could be seen as a minor incident for one person may have a huge impact on the life of some-one else.
Follow-up calls also give victims’ time to process their experiences and consider their options. Previously, victims may have turned down support but later decided they needed help.
Elaine Wilson, Referrals Manager, at ARCH Teesside, said: “This project makes sure victims have the opportunity for a conversation, to explore the support available and, if it is needed, to take up that support.
“The follow-up call will give victims breathing space and the chance to talk to an independent service and explore their options in a safe way”
The pilot follows the publication of an in-depth analysis of sexual violence data on Teesside commissioned by the PCC and produced by Barefoot Research
The report highlighted that less than half of all reported rapes in 2020 showed referral to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) or other support services.
Figures ranged from referrals of 20 per cent for historic sexual assault (with penetration) to 49.2 per cent for historic rapes.
That means less than 50 per cent of victims may have limited knowledge of the support and aftercare available to them.
The pilot has been grant funded by NHS England as part of its Sexual Assault and Abuse Strategy 2022 – 2025. It will run until 31 March 2025.