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Supporting victims of sexual abuse

This week is Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week and I want to take the opportunity to highlight the work being done to support victims of these devastating crimes and tell you about the services my office commission to provide crucial help for the people of Dorset.

Firstly, it is important for me to reinforce the vital reassurance Dorset Police has given to victims of rape, sexual assault, and other sexual offences with the pledge they will be treated with respect and supported when they report a crime. Since I came to office, I have dedicated a key part of my Police and Crime Plan to tackling these horrendous offences of sexual assault. Under the priority to fight violent crime and high harm, I have committed to ensuring that victims of rape and serious sexual assaults are provided with the care and support they need, but also that all victims have the confidence to report these crimes to the police in the first place.

Part of my commitment to tackling these heinous offences include ensuring the Force’s investigative focus is on the perpetrator and I welcome the words of Superintendent Emma Sweetzer, VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) lead for Dorset Police who makes clear the Force will pursue perpetrators of sexual offences relentlessly. She says officers have already started to see a shortening of the investigation process and more offenders going to court, adding: “We are committed to continuing to improve the service we offer to all survivors of rape and sexual offences, to bring more offenders to trial and cut the time victims have to wait for justice. Sexual offence investigations require the bravery of survivors to see them through, but the tenacity and professionalism of our investigators and support from our staff and partner organisations will get them through the criminal justice process.”

Through the Force’s involvement with Operation Soteria, a national collaboration which focused on the development of a new operating model for the investigation and prosecution of rape and serious sexual assault cases, the Force is currently implementing the new Rape and Serious Sexual Offences National Operating Model for investigation. This model is the result of the extensive research Op Soteria produced and continues to do through an independent anonymous survey of survivor-victims of rape and other sexual offences. The survey asks anyone who is aged 18 or over, and who has reported a sexual offence to the police, to give their honest feedback on how police handled their case, regardless of the outcome. I would urge people who have been affected by these crimes to take part – your voice and experiences will help shape the Force’s continued progress into improving services and ensure victims voices are heard.

There is support available for victims of sexual assault from a range of different agencies in Dorset. Whether it is the Force’s specially trained officers, or the exceptional services commissioned by my office, there is help available. I want to raise awareness of where you can go in Dorset if you need it. Firstly, the Shores Sexual Assault Referral Centre can provide evidential services even if a victim is unsure about involving the police. I know how important it is for survivors to feel in control and Shores offers this vital service for victims. STARS is a pan-Dorset charity which offers one to one support free of charge for anyone who lives, works or studies in Dorset and has experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their life. Victim Support is also available for victims regardless of age, gender or circumstances and whether the offence committed against them is recent or historic.

It is crucial to have different types of support available which can be tailored according to the needs of the individual. Whether it is counselling, practical advice or support from an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Adviser), a wide range of services are available to the people of Dorset through the services my office commissions. I urge anyone who has experienced these abhorrent crimes to reach out. There are people who can help you and advise you.

I want Dorset to be a place where victims feel confident to report crime, and that when they do, they are supported by the best services available to them. I am determined that victims are at the centre of policing, are given tailored support that works best for them as individuals, and importantly, have their voices heard as we work to make Dorset the safest place.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner


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