Supporting Victims of Abuse in Surrey

As a parent, it is only natural that you want to protect your children. From the moment they are born this little bundle becomes your responsibility, to keep them safe and out of harm as much as we can.

However, we all know that this isn’t always the case and whilst we would love to wrap them up in cotton wool and bubble wrap constantly, it’s not always possible and like Houdini, they will find a way to get out.

I recently spent an afternoon with Detective Constable Vicki Green from Surrey Police’s Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU) at Surrey Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Cobham.

Originally starting in the HR department of Surrey Police, DC Green went on to be a civilian within the SIU before training to be a WPC, and then taking her Detective exams after two years. She has currently been a Detective Constable with the SIU for two years.

The Safeguarding Investigation Unit is currently made up of 15 Detectives, and by February 2016, there will be 48 Officers. Surrey Police is expecting this unit to be 34% larger within the next two years to deal with the magnitude of cases.

The SIU’s role is to investigate cases of abuse, whether that be domestic abuse, child abuse and vulnerable adults. And don’t think that they only investigate and prosecute new cases either. DC Green was telling me how they have investigated, successfully prosecuted abuse cases going back to the 1950’s, as well as cases spanning decades of abuse.

We also discussed online and offline child abuse and the fact that every school (primary and secondary) will have a Child Protection Liaison Officer (CPLO), who is a skilled person that deals with safeguarding issues.

As you can imagine, being an officer within this unit is incredibly tough. It’s not a job that a lot of people can handle, or can actually do. It takes a certain type of person; one who can be totally dedicated to the victims who they are building relationships with, but also have the ability to switch off when necessary.

It was really interesting talking to DC Green about her job and the unit. As a civilian, I obviously knew that abuse cases can be reported to the police, that there are safeguarding laws, but I had no idea that anything like SARC and The Solace Centre existed.

About The Solace Centre

surrey solace

The Solace Centre is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, which is a specialist 24-hour service for all children and young people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. 

The centre enables children and young people access to medical care, counselling and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, whilst assisting the police investigation into an alleged offence and provide facilities for a high standard of forensic examination if needed. 

The Solace Centre sees all children and young people with acute sexual assault allegations and also children and young people with historical allegations of sexual abuse.

There is no lower age limit for children to be seen at The Solace Centre.

Referrals to the centre can be made by any professional, but self-referrals are also accepted – although, The Solace Centre may need to discuss your referral with other agencies if necessary. However, a referral to the centre does not always need to involve the police.

A team of Crisis Support Workers and a Paediatric Consultant are on call every day of the year. The Centre never closes and is there 24/7, 365 days!

The unit itself is very friendly, and although it is attached to a hospital, it’s not clinical at all. There is a nice, inviting, warm atmosphere upon entering, and the staff are all so warm and friendly. There is a lounge, as well as a children’s area. Both are kitted out in a very homely style, with the children’s room having toys and a rather cool 3D TV to play games on.

There is also an interview room, which again is very homely with comfy chairs and a sofa. The only difference is that there are camera’s within this room, as it is used to record police interviews.

I conducted the interview with DC Green in this room, and although the camera’s weren’t being used, you hardly noticed they were there as they were positioned rather well in the room that they didn’t draw attention.

There are also examining rooms within the unit. These are fairly clinical, as you would expect because they are used to take forensic evidence from a person after a sexual assault.

The Solace Centre work very closely with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and The Sexual Trauma Assessment and Recovery Team (STARS), and if appropriate their own Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) can support the victim. Ongoing support will be arranged and counselling sessions offered.

 

The thought of being raped or knowing someone who has been subjected to such a violent act is unfathomable. But, if it does happen to you or someone you know, there are some useful steps recommended by Solace for someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped.

They are:

  1. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted call 999 and get to a safe place.
  2. Save all of the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault, unwashed and if possible place in a sterile clean bag.
  3. DO NOT:
    • Shower, bath or wash
    • Brush your teeth
    • Disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred
  4. If you are absolutely certain you do not want the police involved and are not in danger, contact The Solace Centre directly for a self-referral.

 

Both Surrey Police Safeguarding Investigation Unit and Surrey SARC are there to protect and support you, the victim.

There are an escalating number of abuse cases being reported to the police, both new and non-recent cases. Regardless of when your abuse took place, each case is treated exactly the same.

Victims of abuse are often scared of being judged. Scared that they somehow brought the attack on. That is not the case and no one will every judge you. You will be believed and taken seriously.

Each case is different, and unfortunately, not all get the outcome they deserve, and they can take a long time. But this does not mean that you shouldn’t report it. You must!

Ongoing support will be offered to you, regardless of the outcome of your case.

You are not alone!


 

Useful Numbers

The Solace Centre – 0845 519 6168

Your Sanctuary Surrey Domestic Abuse Helpline (24hr confidential service) – 01483 776822

Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) – 01483 546400 / 0800 0288 022

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) – 0800 085 3330

 

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