It is widely acknowledged that rape is under reported and has a devastating effect on victims. Support is vital to help victims become survivors, whilst forensic evidence is often critical to a court case involving rape.
A SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) can help with both. A SARC is a one stop shop that gives a victim of rape or sexual assault options, immediate crisis support, forensic medical examination, access to emergency contraceptive, sexual health screening, and access to an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor should you wish you press charges. The SARC enables the victim much-needed time to get stronger before making the difficult decision whether to press charges.
I am a Team SARC member for Reading and I recently watched a strong independent 40 something young woman fall apart after she had been raped by a friend. She contacted me because I was someone she knew could give her advice. She didn’t know who else to call. She knew because of the campaign that there was a SARC in a neighboring town, but as she had been in bed for a few days while the effects of the date rape drug wore off, she thought it was too late, and also felt it was too far.
I persuaded her to let me take her. I drove, and whilst driving I wished I’d been able to ask someone else to drive so I could concentrate on supporting her. It wasn’t a town I ever visit, as I usually have no need. At times she was fine and she was doing the right thing going, then she would cry and think it was a waste of time. I couldn’t ask anyone else to drive, she wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to know. Some victims wouldn’t have wanted to tell anyone and I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been either by train or driving. If I was traumatized and emotional I wouldn’t like to think how my driving would be affected.
On arriving we were greeted by a lady who talked my friend through what would happen, whilst also listening to her experience. Then a female doctor arrived and told her what her options were and offered a physical examination. They were both very understanding and patient. I watched my friend’s confidence increase as well as her outlook. She said to me on the way home that she felt that not only had these strangers believed her but they had also given her options. She had felt everything was out of her control and she hadn’t known where to turn and what to do. They also helped her understand that the overwhelming feelings that she was encountering were normal. The journey home was a lot more positive though she was still thinking she was not going to press charges.
In a few days she called me to let me know she had contacted the police and was now pressing charges. Had she not visited the SARC the police wouldn’t be able to have the forensic evidence that is stored at the SARC, and its likely she wouldn’t have felt it was an option without their support.
After experiencing this journey I realised that had it been my daughter, I was accompanying that journey would have been so much worse. It would have been so tempting to turn back home so I could comfort them, instead of the long journey to a new unknown for them.
There is currently a petition
Require a Sexual Assault Referral Centre for all towns with a population over 120,000 to have a SARC to support men women and children. Many towns have no services at all to support victims, whilst currently some SARCs only provide support for women. It is important these vital services are available to more people, and are accessible to those of our communities who perhaps wouldn’t be able to make a journey to another town.
Please sign http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/6794
or alternatively search epetition, which the government website will come up. If you type in SARC you will see the petition.
Once signed you will receive an email, you need to click on the link to confirm!
If you would like to see what a SARC can offer Reading. Please look at the first SARC in the country in Manchester. www.stmaryscentre.org
We need 100,000 to sign before August to have this issue brought up in parliament. We need as much help as possible to raise awareness of this campaign. If you are able to post the petition link on Facebook, twitter or website, please do, or perhaps you have your own idea’s on how you could help.
If you would like to offer any support, practical help or get more involved with the campaign please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also ‘like’ SARC in More towns on Facebook or follow us on twitter @MoreSARCs