Victims of sexual abuse reminded they ‘are not alone’

Lockdown restrictions do not apply if victims or survivors need to leave their home to protect themselves 

Main image: PCC Sue Mountstevens and Chief Constable Andy Marsh during a Facebook Live on 2 February.

Avon and Somerset Police is reminding victims and survivors of sexual violence they are “not alone” – despite the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

Police and Crime Commissioner ( PCC ) Sue Mountstevens is supporting this week’s National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness campaign #ItsNotOkay, which aims to raise awareness of such crimes and encourage victims to not stay silent about their experiences. 

As part of the awareness week, local victim service SARSAS put a question to the PCC and Chief Constable Andy Marsh as part of their regular Facebook Live.

Claire Bloor, CEO of SARSAS, asked what support officers receive to ensure their response to survivors is trauma informed?

PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Sexual violence is not okay. It is unacceptable. These crimes cannot go under the radar because of the pandemic and we need to shout about the fact that victims of domestic abuse – including sexual violence – can leave their house to escape a dangerous situation or relationship.

“Lockdown restrictions do not apply if victims or survivors need to leave their home to protect themselves or their family against violence.

“Sexual violence is also happening at house parties and raves that are taking place. Although these gatherings break coronavirus rules, this does not mean that victims need to remain silent. We want victims of these appalling crimes to come forward and, no matter where or when it happened, you will be supported. You are not alone.”

Victim support services across Avon and Somerset have continued to support survivors during the pandemic.

This is being delivered remotely via phone, webchat and video chat, and helplines remain active for those who want to access support. 

CEO of Safe Link, Sarah O’Leary, added: “We need to send a strong message out to everyone that committing rape and sexual assault is never OK and that there is never an excuse.

“In the last year, we have supported over 1,400 women, men and children who have been victims of rape and sexual assault, and the impact on each of those individuals has been devastating and life changing. 

“We also know that many victims never tell anyone what has happened to them, so it’s vital that all victims and survivors know that it is never their fault and that help and support is always available. We know that victims and survivors who receive help do recover and go onto lead fulfilling lives.” 

Victims of sexual violence can access help whether they choose to report the crime to the police or not, and no matter how long ago the incident took place.

If you are concerned about a loved one or witnessed an incident and want to remain anonymous, you can report via Crimestoppers. 

For information about support services, please visit This Is Not Excuse. 

To listen to the PCC and Chief Constable’s response, watch the latest Facebook Live.