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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Bid to create new centre for sex attack victims in Cumbria

Cumbrian victims of sexual violence have been given fresh hope that they may soon get the professional support they need without having to leave the county.

Since 2010 victims who need to be forensically examined as part of any police investigation have had to travel to Preston.

Charities have pointed out that having to make that arduous four-hour round trip heaps more stress on victims.

But Preston’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) became the only viable option after Cumbria police stopped using a rape suite in Longtown because it was struggling to find suitably qualified doctors to staff it.

Speaking after Cumbria police predicted a sharp rise in reports of sexual crimes over the next year, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes gave a clear indication that the situation may soon improve.

He said: “There is no Sexual Assault Reporting Centre in Cumbria at present so if a lady in Workington gets raped she has to travel out of the county and that is unacceptable. I am working with people to see what we can do about that, and I am confident we can make progress.”

Mr Rhodes said he had already had a number of meetings with key people, including health professionals, and he was hopeful that as part of a county-wide strategy the proper facilities to deal with the issue would be provided.

Action on the issue may be taken as early as October.

Recent figures show that reported domestic violence in Cumbria is expected to rise by 13 per cent while for violent and sexual crimes the rise is expected to be 28 per cent.

That is partly down to increased levels of reporting, said Mr Rhodes.

Detective Superintendent Mike Forrester said the police and related agencies are working together, initially to ensure that the right level of aftercare is available locally for Cumbrian victims of sex crimes; and in the longer term to make it possible to have a facility for the kind of forensic examinations currently only available in Preston.

He added: “It’s about making sure that we get the right level of expertise to give people the right level of care and to make sure that the evidence gathering is done in circumstances that allow it to be used effectively later on.”

Nicola Guthrie, from Impact Housing’s Let Go Project, which supports victims of domestic violence, said she believed the domestic violence forecast reflects increasing levels of violence, fuelled in part by the growing stress that families now live with.

She added: “But we are really pleased that more people are coming forward. Domestic violence is clearly a priority for the police in Cumbria, which is fantastic. But people can also refer themselves to Let Go.”

  • To contact Let Go in the Carlisle area call 01228 633640; the numbers for west Cumbria Let Go are 01900 842991 and 01900 842992. Rape Crisis Cumbria can be contacted on 01900 829729

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