Campaigns and events have been taking place across the country this week to raise awareness of sexual violence and abuse, reminding communities that ‘it’s not ok’.
Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martyn Underhill marked the week with a visit to the Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre (DRCSC). The centre provides a range of services for victims of sexual violence and abuse. It has been running for almost 30 years and is part-funded by the PCC’s office.
The Commissioner said: “It is always an experience of mixed feelings when I visit DRCSC. It is clearly saddening that so many people require their services, but continually humbling to see the amazing support the centre and its team of dedicated staff and volunteers offer.
“It is particularly pertinent to visit this week, where nationally communities, businesses, universities and other organisations are joining together to make clear that sexual abuse and violence is never ok.
“Awareness campaigns like this are instrumental in changing the culture around sexual abuse, violence and harassment. We must commit to educating people of all ages on what is not acceptable and empower victims to come forward, knowing that they are categorically not at fault. When they do, it is services like DRCSC that provide the vital emotional and practical support so that victims feel heard, supported and not alone.”
DRCSC began in the late eighties as a helpline for women and girls, but has evolved into a centre providing services to men, women, children and young people. It has had to develop in order to meet increasing demand, and OPCC funding has recently been secured for another Children and Young Person’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA).
PCC Martyn Underhill continued: “I am passionate about this area, so I was pleased when DRCSC approached my office to fund this post as the need is clearly there. Demand is increasing, particularly as we work to educate young people on healthy relationships and consent while also raising awareness of the support services available.”
Independent Sexual Violence Advisors offer practical and emotional support to individuals who have been affected by sexual violence, and their families. They offer advice on issues such as criminal justice procedures, witness statements, accessing special measures and informing victims about the progress of their case. They will assist in building a support network for individuals, including signposting family members to appropriate services and attending meetings with other agencies including GPs or housing.
Helen Stevens, Service Manager at DRCSC, said: “It has been great to have the support of our PCC, Martyn Underhill in his visit to the centre during the national awareness week. He met staff and volunteers during his time with us. It has been a busy week for us as we have been involved in a number of different events across Dorset. We have been delighted to have so many different community groups and businesses want to partner with us this year, with the message ITSNOTOK.”