AN INNOVATIVE pilot to support victims of sexual harassment and violence has been backed by Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Steve Turner.
Middlesbrough-based ARCH Teesside wants to improve support for victims, who have reported experiences of sexual harassment and violence to Cleveland Police.
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. They will then arrange an assessment and provide support.
If the victim’s needs are better met elsewhere, ARCH staff will provide information and signpost victims to the appropriate services. The service is non-clinical and totally independent.
Focussing on victims
The 18-month project will focus on the impact of the sexual violence or harassment on victims and not the offence itself.
That means some of the eligible victims may not have received further police support when they reported an incident. 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 some-one else. However, victims may still have practical and emotional support needs.
Follow-up calls also give victims’ time to process their experiences and consider their options. Previously, they may have turned down support but later may decide they need help.
The aim is to make sure victims get the right support and information. The project aims to safeguard victims. It also will make sure their voices are heard as well as ensure the right services are available to victims.
In addition, the project will give services a greater understanding of sexual offending across Cleveland. It will also give providers greater awareness of the barriers, which victims face to getting support.
Cleveland PCC Steve Turner said: “More than 81 per cent of women and girls, who responded to a recent survey by my office, said they felt unsafe in public spaces.
“That perception tells me that there is a lot more we all need to be doing to increase support for women and girls, address gender-based violence and increase women’s confidence about their personal safety.”
Gives victims breathing space
Elaine Wilson, Referrals Manager, at ARCH Teesside, said: “We know not everyone is taking up the offer of support.
“This project makes sure victims have the opportunity for a conversation. Ir gives them the chance to explore the support available and, if it is needed, to take up support.
“The follow-up call gives victims a breathing space to take up support from an independent place.”
The new service, which will be funded with cash from NHS England, has been planned after the publication last year of an in-depth analysis of sexual violence data on Teesside 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.