Hunts to benefit from opening of rape crisis centre

A NEW centre for victims of rape and sexual assault – the first of its kind in the eastern region - was opened in Cambridgeshire on Monday. The centre, which provides support and medical facilities for the county, was opened by Barbara Follett MP, Ministe

A NEW centre for victims of rape and sexual assault - the first of its kind in the eastern region - was opened in Cambridgeshire on Monday.

The centre, which provides support and medical facilities for the county, was opened by Barbara Follett MP, Minister for the East of England.

The building in Peterborough is open to both women and men who have been the victim of rape or sexual assault - no matter how long ago the offence took place.

Alongside Barbara Follett should have been Sara Payne, who launched a campaign after the death of her eight-year-old daughter, Sarah, but Mrs Payne is ill after surgery for a brain tumour.

In July 2000 Sarah had been out playing in a field near her grandparents' home in Sussex when she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered.

Her mother, later made an MBE, has worked tirelessly for victims' rights and child protection.

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Mrs Follett said: "Sara had more right than almost anyone else I can think of to be here but sadly she is very ill. She is our victims' champion, and the creation of this sexual assault referral centre has been shaped by findings in a report she completed into the experiences of victims following an attack."

Victims who attend the Cambridgeshire centre will be given a forensic medical examination in a sterile room so that any evidence found can be presented in court. A change of clothing and bathrooms are available as well as a lounge area and places for counselling.

There is also the opportunity to seek help and counselling without involving the police, as well as accessing victim support, medical treatment and sexual health testing.

The 24/7 centre is at the Oasis in Rivergate, Peterborough, and was set up by Cambridgeshire police in partnership with the NHS and Rape Crisis.

Mrs Follett added: "This centre is a really peaceful, calm place which will help victims come to terms with the traumatic events that brought them here. Victims of sexual abuse will receive all the support they need, and we hope that, through coming to the centre, more men and women will be encouraged to report these crimes as only a small percentage currently go to the police.

"Here, if they wish to, victims can make a statement to the police and also undergo medical examinations in the most dignified way possible."

Six other counties in the East of England are expected to open similar centres this year.

Detective Chief Inspector Melanie Dales told The Hunts Post there were some 200 rapes each year in Cambridgeshire - four a week.

DCI Dales said: "The Government has ordered that all forces should have a rape crisis centre by 2011. The first, in Manchester, was opened 20 years ago and there has not been much activity since then.

"There are about a dozen across the country which have opened in the past five years.

"The centre is designed to be a one-stop-shop so that victims have access to medical help, counselling and the police."

She added: "The police have had bad press about how we respond to rape and we want people to know that we take such crimes very seriously.

"We hope that people will come forward and bring their attackers to justice."

INFORMATION: You can contact the centre on 0845 089 6262.

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