Can we cope with a surge in sex cases?
9:50am Monday 30th September 2013 in Latest News
SPIRALLING historic sexual violence claims since the Jimmy Savile scandal have been highlighted by Wiltshire and Swindon police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson.
Mr Macpherson believes there is a need to train a range of people in whom survivors might confide, such as health visitors, GPs, and children’s centre and Home Start workers.
The recent upsurge in historic claims of sexual violence has led to concerns about the ability of professionals to handle the workload, which has almost doubled since reports of Savile’s sexual attacks began to emerge.
Mr Macpherson spoke out at the annual meeting of the Wiltshire Rape and Sexual Assault Centre in Trowbridge.
He paid tribute to the Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (ISDAs) who guide victims through the criminal justice system.
“Recent publicity about historical cases of sexual abuse has led to referrals going through the roof,” he said.
“Given the personal and distressing nature of sexual violence, victims may not necessarily speak to specialist workers.
“As a society we should ensure that the people to whom victims are likely to speak have sufficient knowledge and training. They must be able to help those who come forward, and encourage those who have not.”
Mr Macpherson said that between April and September of last year IDVAs alone received 95 referrals, and that this figure jumped to 180 for the same period this year. These figures do not include Swindon and do not include referrals to ISVAs.
However, as the Adver has previously revealed, victims who come to Swindon’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) with historic allegations of sexual assault or rape now make up half of its increasing workload.
Between April 2012 and March this year the facility supported 339 women and 38 men, with 110 clients aged under 18. Between April and July this year alone, there were 170 women and 10 men, and more than 50 were under 18. The vast majority of attackers were known to their victims.
Centre manager Jools James-Kempshall said at the time: “We are pushed right to the maximum at the moment, but we are hoping it will settle down a bit. “We have had a more than 90 per cent increase in historical referrals since the Savile scandal broke, and I think that shows a greater willingness for people to come forward, which we welcome.
“Our staff all have an ISVA diploma, and training provided by Co-ordinated Action against Domestic Abuse (CAADA), which is top of the range training.
“The young person’s worker here is also fully qualified as a counsellor and therapist. “It is possible we will be applying for a joint post for a domestic violence reduction co-ordinator to help bring down referrals.
“While people are now more inclined to come forward, it may die down a little after the recent peak.”
Mr Macpherson said: “Many victims of crime find it hard to understand the criminal justice process, such as who is responsible for charging, what happens at different court hearings. “This is particularly so for victims of sexual violence.”
"My office has begun to develop a Victim Pathway, which aims to offer clarity on the criminal justice system by breaking it down and providing clear information about each stage of the criminal justice system.
“There will also be a directory to guide victims and survivors as well as professionals to the support services that are available.”