New NHS campaign to support survivors of sexual assault and abuse

New NHS campaign to support survivors of sexual assault and abuse

Off By Ed Hanna

Victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse are being encouraged to come forward for NHS help and care as part of a major campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) – specialist NHS services that provide a safe space and dedicated care for anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted or abused. 

Health service leaders are encouraging anyone who needs support to turn to the NHS at one of the country’s 24-hour centres. SARCs offer a range of services, including crisis care, medical and forensic examinations, emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections. They can also arrange access to an independent sexual violence advisor, as well as referrals to mental health support and voluntary sector sexual violence support services.  It doesn’t matter when it happened and whether you choose to involve the police or not, support is available to everyone.

Kate Davies, CBE, the NHS director of sexual assault services commissioning, said: “Sexual assault or domestic abuse can happen to anyone – any age, ethnicity, gender or social circumstance – and it may be a one-off event or happen repeatedly.

“But sadly, thousands of people aren’t sure where to turn to get the help they need, and the NHS is making it clear that you can turn to us.

“We provide confidential emotional, medical or practical support at our SARCs, which offer a dedicated safe space for anyone who needs it, regardless of when the incident happened.

“We know it can take a lot to pick up the phone and take that first step – we are here at any time of day or night, and we will support you through the whole process, whatever you decide to do.”

Chair of the National NHS England Sexual Abuse and Assault Services Lived Experience Group, Laura Currer said: “I know from experience how hard it can be to seek help in these situations, but after I was assaulted I will never forget the kind, caring and compassionate staff at SARCs who were there to hold my hand during one of the worst moments of my life.

“They explained the whole process to me, and gave me the space and autonomy over my body that my attackers had taken away, and I will be forever grateful.

“I urge anyone who needs support, no matter when it took place, to come forward – you are not alone, and the wonderful teams at SARCs are there to help 24/7.”

The new campaign comes as a survey of more than 4,000 people across the country, found over half (56%) did not seek help from any organisation or service after the incident, while almost half of respondents (46%) cite fear of being believed as the biggest barrier to accessing services.

If you have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused and don’t know where to turn, search “sexual assault referral centres” for more information or visit to find your nearest service.