National campaign raising awareness of Sexual Assault Referral Centres

West Yorkshire is standing in solidarity with Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS) up and down the country to highlight the crucial support they offer for victims and survivors.

7th February 2022

West Yorkshire is standing in solidarity with Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS) up and down the country to highlight the crucial support they offer for victims and survivors.

As part of Sexual Violence and Abuse Awareness Week, which begins today (07/02), partners are coming together in a unique awareness raising campaign led by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

It comes as the number of people accessing SARCs nationally halved after the first lockdown, compared with the previous year.

Over the same period, official figures also showed increases locally and nationally in domestic abuse and sexual assault.

West Yorkshire’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe OBE said:

“I know that there are many afraid to speak out and worry what it will mean to receive the support they so desperately need.

“Research shows that young women, particularly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are reluctant to come forward, and this has to change.

“As a survivor of sexual and domestic abuse, I feel a strong personal responsibility to tell people how they can access help and this national campaign is a great platform to achieve that.

“We are really lucky to have a state of the art, purpose-built provision here in West Yorkshire, which officially opened in 2020.

“I visited only last year and was able to follow the journey of those using the facility and see for myself the experience of victims and survivors.

“It was really reassuring to see the dedicated and modern facilities on offer, whilst learning about the extremely sensitive and compassionate way in which the team operate.

“When it happened to me, this was not around and I did not believe that I had a voice. Here, you will be heard, and your best interest are at heart.”

Housing both Children and Adult Services under the same roof, the Hazlehurst Centre in West Yorkshire provides care and assessment for child victims and a separate service for adults where specially trained staff deliver medical help and support as required.

Jointly commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement, the building also includes a live video-link with the courts, suites for video recorded interviews, waiting rooms, a hub for specialist support services and referral to Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA).

Detective Superintendent Lee Berry, of West Yorkshire Police, said:

“We are fortunate to have a fantastic facility in West Yorkshire available and on hand ready to support those who are victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault. We understand that going through an incident like this is difficult, and you may be afraid to speak out about what has happened to you.

“This facility has all services available under one roof, ensuring that you are supported by specialist staff in one place, at your own pace and as sensitively as you need.

“The centre has been a real partnership effort and we continue to work together closely to ensure that we deliver an improved experience for victims and survivors and to encourage reporting, hopefully leading to better outcomes at court for victims and survivors.

“We do encourage anyone who is a victim or survivor of rape or sexual assault to come forward, we are ready to support you and bring those responsible to justice. Our centre is on hand to guide you through the process at your pace, and as sensitively as possible. We are here and ready to listen.”

Kate Davies, CBE, the NHS director of sexual assault services commissioning, said:

“Sexual assault or domestic abuse can happen to anyone – any age, ethnicity, gender or social circumstance – and it may be a one-off event or happen repeatedly.

“But sadly, thousands of people aren’t sure where to turn to get the help they need, and today the NHS is making it clear that you can turn to us.

“We provide confidential emotional, medical or practical support at our sexual assault referral centres, a dedicated safe space for anyone who needs it, regardless of when the incident happened.

“We know it can take a lot to pick up the phone and take that first step – we are here at any time of day or night, and we will support you through the whole process, whatever you decide to do.”

Graeme Goldsmith, HMCTS Delivery Director for the North-East said:

“We are proud to be part of the strong partnership that has developed this important facility.

“The court experience can, understandably, be daunting for some.

“However, by using technology such as live video links, it provides an effective alternative for victims and witnesses to give their evidence at what is often a difficult time in their lives.”

To find out more about the West Yorkshire SARC visit the website