A NEW centre providing up-to-date forensic examination and support facilities for adult victims of rape and serious sexual assault has officially opened today (Friday).
The new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) was unveiled by Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa during a special celebration event attended by local MPs, stakeholders and charity partners.
The new unit, which cost £913,147 to develop and was funded by the PCC, contains advanced forensic facilities for adults which meet the new UKAS Forensic Standards which will become mandatory in 2021.
It contains three ground floor examination suites, including one with disabled access, which provide self-contained and confidential space for victims of recent rape or serious sexual assault who access the centre.
There is also a suite of meeting and counselling rooms, including provision of art therapy for children, giving both adults and children access to ongoing support from Derbyshire-based sexual violence specialists SV2, which manage the unit, and its team of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, Crisis Workers, online safety officer and counsellors.
In addition, the new SARC will provide police with vulnerable witness video interviewing facilities and a live link to court enabling some witnesses to provide evidence from a safe and supportive environment.
Launching the SARC, Mr Dhindsa said: "I'm very proud to unveil Derbyshire's new SARC which will deliver vital assistance and support to victims of rape and sexual assault in the county.
"Victims who receive prompt specialist help have a much higher chance of recovery and it is vital we deliver services with the highest sensitivity in mind to increase trust and confidence in the judicial process and encourage many more victims to come forward.
"I'm immensely grateful to all our partners who have helped develop this fantastic new resource and have inputted their vast knowledge and experience into the premises' design.
"We continue to build on all our provision to ensure the emotional and practical needs of victims are met and I'm positive this new facility will help us make a difference to vulnerable people who deserve the highest care and attention."
The SARC provides a specialist forensic medical examination service for anyone aged 18 years and over who has been raped or sexually assaulted. This service is available on a 24/7 basis when victims are supported by an SV2 Crisis Worker.
The current SARC used by the Force is only able to provide two examination rooms which are not self-contained. The new facility not only expands provision but also ensures victims are treated in the most appropriate environment with the right care and support.
Sally Goodwin, chief executive of SV2, said: "We feel very proud and privileged to have been able to work with the Police and Crime Commissioner and Derbyshire Constabulary from concept to completion of the new SARC to ensure that it not only meets the required forensic standards moving forward but that it also provides a welcoming, safe and professional space for those people accessing it.
"This new facility will significantly improve the experience of vulnerable victims and survivors at a time when they need it most. This investment is a clear indication by the PCC and the Force of their commitment to supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse across Derbyshire."
Chief Constable Peter Goodman added: "Sexual assault is a horrendous crime and it is vitally important that we offer the correct and most appropriate support to victims.
"These types of centres offer crucial support in a calm environment at a time when victims are most vulnerable.
"I am pleased that we have been able to work with the PCC and SV2 to deliver this fit for purpose building that will make a difference to victims and survivors of sexual abuse."