Victims of sexual assaults in North Wales are being urged to come forward to seek help – no matter how many years ago the attacks happened.
There has been a surge of people from the region reporting assaults following the Jimmy Savile scandal, including women in their 80s who suffered abuse as children.
The news was revealed during a visit to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Old Colwyn by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones and his deputy, Ann Griffith.
The centre, called Amethyst, is now helping around 450 people a year, mainly women and children with around 10 per cent of the victims being male.
It’s run by a partnership that includes North Wales Police, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and a group of third sector organisations, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, Stepping Stones, NSPCC and Barnados.
According to centre manager Sarah Staveley, it’s never too late to seek help.
She said: “The SARC opened in 2010 and we have seen a significant increase in the number of referrals and victims seeking assistance and advice following sexual assaults.
“This is, I believe, due to a number of factors which may include raised public awareness of sexual offences in light of the recent national investigations around this type of offending.
“The Savile effect has given people confidence to come forward, knowing that they will be believed.
“Victims are able to seek advice and support without formally reporting to the police, whether this is recent or in the past. They can be supported to make a formal report to the police if they so choose. The rise in reports may also reflect an increase in public confidence in the police’s ability to investigate crimes of this nature sensitively.”
She added: “At SARC we have a fantastic facility where we are able to undertake forensic medical examinations of adults and children as well as follow up health and sexual health checks. The facility also incorporates video interview rooms and counselling rooms”
“The people who come here are cared for and supported in making the choices they want to in order to help them cope and recover from such devastating crimes. The people attending the centre can be very traumatised, so we try to help them understand the choices that they have and support and empower them in making those decisions of how they want to move on.
“We have seen very young children where there is a concern that sexual abuse may have taken place, and at the other end of the spectrum late 80s is probably the oldest that we have seen.
“Vulnerable people can be at increased risk however sexual assault can affect anyone.
“For people who have been sexually abused as children that doesn’t go away, with almost daily news coverage of some kind of sexual offence, it can be a constant reminder.
“We can support them to access services and address this and help them to move on and get their lives back. People are reporting incidents 40 years afterwards because it’s significantly affected their lives.
“The message is that it’s never too late to seek help.”
Ongoing support for victims of sexual violence is provided by an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor a Children and Young People Sexual Violence Advisor, with both posts being funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Commissioner Jones, a former police inspector, said: “The work that takes place is absolutely vital so that anybody who wishes to disclose that they have been a victim of sexual abuse can come forward and feel that they are taken seriously.
“We’re encouraged that people feel that they can now come forward and say what’s happened to them.”
Ann Griffith added: “What is more evident at this time is that people who have kept their abuse quiet for maybe the greater part of their lives are now coming forward, the feel now that they too are able to come forward and seek help.
“It can have an incalculable effect on people’s lives and it is difficult to imagine the pain that people must go through.
“It’s really important that people feel that if they come forward they will be taken seriously and that there is support there afterwards to see them through so that they can cope with the abuse that they have lived with.”
Anyone who has any concerns over sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation should call North Wales Police on 101