Suffolk Police is raising awareness of the specialist support that is on offer to rape victims in a bid to increase confidence in reporting incidents.
Rape is largely recognised as one of the most underreported crimes, with suggestions that a lack of confidence in the police and the justice system may be partially to blame.
This week police forces countrywide are supporting a week-long ‘In Focus: Rape’ initiative led by the Association of Chief Police Officers. The week aims to highlight how rape and sexual offences are dealt with and the support victims should expect.
Within Suffolk Police there is a dedicated unit called the Gemini Team made up of specialist investigators whose primary function is to deal with offences of rape.
Detective Sergeant Stuart Jeans of the Gemini Team said: “We understand that it takes a lot of bravery to come forward and we take all reports very seriously. If a victim comes forward and reports a rape it will be thoroughly investigated by officers dedicated to dealing with this type of offence and we will do all we can to bring the offender to justice.
“Furthermore if a victim simply wants to talk, to understand their options, we are here to listen. There is absolutely no pressure on the person reporting. We are keen to increase confidence in reporting incidents and improve our detection rate.”
In addition to the Gemini Team investigating reports of rape Suffolk has a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) named The Ferns. Initially the SARC provides victims with the opportunity to access a forensic examination, which is often key to a rape investigation.
However, the SARC provides much more than this. It has a team of specialist staff who can provide pathways into health care, counselling and support and all without an obligation to report the incident to the police.
Amanda Hazell, an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor, said: “There are many reasons why victims of rape do not feel that they can come forward but we would always encourage people to do so. The Ferns offers a service which provides advice and information, to allow people to make informed choices at this difficult time in their lives. Whether the police are involved or not, everybody receives the same service.
“Whatever your concerns are about reporting, you can speak with staff at The Ferns without being judged or pressured into making decisions you are not happy with. People can feel confident that they can receive assistance from The Ferns and the Independent Sexual Violence Service, whether it is a one off visit for advice or support throughout the criminal justice process and beyond.
“We can explain the types of counselling available to people in their area and assist them in accessing these services. We also help people with referrals and supporting information to other agencies for example sexual health, GPs, housing and finances, whether or not they have reported to police. If people have reported to police we can also support them alongside the Justice system, ensuring they are aware of what is expected of them and what support they are entitled to which includes us supporting them at court.”
As part of the ‘In Focus: Rape’ week Suffolk and Norfolk Police have relaunched the Time to Stop campaign, which will run through the festive period, with radio adverts, posters and hand-outs being produced to help raise awareness of rape and sexual violence.
Further information about rape and the support that can be offered to victims visit www.suffolk.police.uk/timetostop or www.theferns-suffolk.org.uk .