Rape and sexual assault victims urged to speak out

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Serenity, the county’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, is launching a campaign aimed at 18 to 30-year-old victims of rape and sexual assault to encourage them to come forward and talk about it.

Serenity opened in April 2010, and sees more than 500 cases of sexual assault from men and women of all ages, each year.

The countywide campaign is being run in partnership with Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust and the police and hopes to encourage victims to get support, and remind them that they don’t have to tell the police if they don’t want to.

Glynis Bliss, Sexual Assault Referral Centre manager at Serenity, said: “We know how difficult it is for many victims to talk about what has happened and most people don’t report to the police. Often they think they won’t be believed, or people will judge them. They may be scared of what will happen. That often means they then struggle to cope on their own.

“Serenity is a safe place to get the help they need and discuss all their options. Our key focus is on their health and well-being, but if they do decide to report to the police, we will then support them through that process. Whatever they decide, it’s their choice and under their control.”

The campaign includes the launch of the new-look Serenity website at www.serenitynorthants.co.uk, as well as countywide events taking place throughout December and January.

They will be taking place at Corby town centre on Thursday (December 13), from 10am until 2pm, Kettering town centre clubs and bars on December 21, from 10pm until 1am, Wellingborough clubs and bars on December 22, from 10pm until 1am, and Kettering town centre on January 5, from 10am until 2pm.

A video has also been produced which can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY2BW7i4xh4. It features a night out taking a turn for the worse when, after having a few drinks with friends, a kiss turns to rape. The video, Don’t Keep it Zipped, is aimed at victims, while another, Rape Ruins Lives, is aimed at the perpetrator.

The campaign ties in with the relaunch of the Home Office campaign from earlier this year, which encourages teenagers and young people to rethink their views of rape and sexual assault, and direct them to places of support and advice.

Det Insp Helen Knight, of Northamptonshire Police, said: “The most important thing for a victim of sexual assault is to talk to someone about what has happened. They may think the only option they have is to report it to the police but this isn’t the case, and Serenity is an excellent first port of call if they don’t feel able to come directly to us.

“We’re very supportive of any campaign that encourages people affected by sexual crime to come forward and if someone does choose to involve the police, then we’ll work hard to get the best evidence we can and, working with Serenity, make sure they have the support they need through to any court process.”

If people are concerned about sexual assault or rape, they can call the Serenity helpline on 01604 601 713. Alternatively, they can visit www.serenitynorthants.co.uk, or email serenity@nhft.nhs.uk