The Westmorland GazetteMore support planned for sexual assault victims (From The Westmorland Gazette)

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More support planned for sexual assault victims

The Westmorland Gazette: Richard Rhodes Richard Rhodes

A VISION for the way victims of sexual assault will be supported across the county has been officially unveiled this week.

The Victims of Assault and Sexual Crime Initiative for those who fall prey to sex attacks has been launched by Police and Crime Commissioner, Richard Rhodes, in partnership with the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS England, Cumbria Police and Cumbria County Council.

The support available will be for people of any age and wherever possible, more services will be provided in the county.

These will include health care, emotional support and support through the criminal justice process.

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Mr Rhodes said: “I became aware that the support available to victims of sexual assault was inconsistent with agencies delivering different aspects individually.

“Victims were having to travel outside the county to access a sexual assault referral centre, which provides the forensic assessment, and other support including counselling and health care was often disjointed or not provided at all.

“I commissioned an independent review of services and the message was clear from victims and statutory agencies that more needs to be done in the county to support victims of sexual assault.

“Since the review a significant amount of work has taken place.”

He added that he hoped victims would feel ‘confident’ they could come forward and report sexual violence.

He also outlined his aim for a sexual assault referral centre to be set up next year, which will tie together the support offered.

“We have listened to victims and they should only have to tell their story once,” he said. “Only by all agencies working together will we be able to make a difference.”

Charlotte Winter, from NHS England, added: “Rape and sexual assault are devastating experiences for any victim.

“Failure to address the victim’s immediate and ongoing needs can have a considerable and long-term impact on their emotional well-being and health.

“It can also cause the victim to disengage from the criminal justice process, reducing the opportunity for offenders to be brought to justice.

“We are taking vital steps forward in our aim to give much needed and improved support across the entire county.”

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