If you are a regular reader of my page, you will know I have written a number of times about how important it is that there be a facility for rape victims to be able to report their experiences in Cheshire.
This all came about after one particular victim from Chester who endured the harrowing experience of being raped, contacted me because she felt it was her obligation as a woman to use her own experience to help and inform others in similar situations what they could do if they found themselves in that situation.
The woman, who for the purpose of my articles, I have called Becky, did not report her rape for two months and didn’t have a clue what to do, who to turn to or how to deal with what had happened to her.
The first thing she did was ring a friend who worked for a sexual abuse charity, and was advised to contact North West-based Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC), which provides vital support for victims of rape and sexual assault, as well as Manchester-based St Mary’s SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre), which offers constant advice, support and medical treatment.
Service was not available to victims in Cheshire
While both services proved invaluable to Becky in helping her come to terms with her situation and giving her the strength to get through the subsequent trial and sentence of her rapist, one thing Becky did not understand was why such a wonderful service was not available to victims in Cheshire, leaving her to travel for over an hour to get the support she needed.
Becky describes St Mary’s as ‘the greatest place in the world’ but says the build up on the journey there was far from pleasant.
“On the way there I felt sick. I could always phone them for support but having one closer would make it so much easier. If you’ve just been traumatised, Manchester is a long way to go.”
This is why Becky and I were keen to raise as much awareness of this as possible. Why was Cheshire not able to benefit from this great service? Why couldn’t every county have it?
Luckily others agreed. And now at last, a new campaign has been launched to encourage more people in Cheshire to report rape and seek the help they need, in the form of a website which has been created to give victims of rape and sexual assault all the details they need to receive support and encourage people to contact the service directly.
The website contains information on the range of services available in Cheshire and how to access them as well as containing contact information for Cheshire SARC’s 24-hour phone line.
In addition, a poster campaign providing contact details and website information will be launched to promote the service throughout the county.
For now, all Forensic Medical Examinations and health care assessments will take place at St Mary’s SARC, but all counselling and support is available at local offices throughout Cheshire including in Chester , Crewe, Ellesmere Port , Runcorn, Northwich , Macclesfield and Warrington.
This really is great news for victims of rape and sexual assault, and Becky is thrilled.
“I welcome the news that St Mary’s and RASASC are working together to provide this vital service for victims of sexual violence in Cheshire,” she said. “I am passionate about promoting their services as I know from first hand experience how vital they are. I initially felt unable to report my assault and attended St Mary’s for a forensic examination.
“Knowing that the DNA evidence would be stored for seven years really took the pressure off me and gave me time to decide whether or not to report the incident to the police.
“St Mary’s and RASASC provided me with ongoing support both before and after I reported my rape and this was invaluable in helping me give evidence in court and ultimately in seeing the offender convicted.
“After the court case I received counselling from RASASC which helped me start to come to terms with the assault and get my life back on track.”
Becky added: “I would encourage anyone in Cheshire who has been the victim of sexual violence, whether recently or historic, to visit the new Cheshire SARC website for information and advice.
“It doesn’t matter whether you choose to report the incident or not, you will receive incredible support from St Mary’s and RASASC.
“Both organisations have played a huge part in my recovery. It is terrifying to make that first phone call and it does take courage but it is definitely worth it.
“I am so glad that I contacted St Mary’s following my assault, I can’t praise them enough for the way they have supported me.
“They are there for you as long as you need them.”