Too often the truth about sexual assault is swept under the carpet. New research completed in Coventry and Warwickshire sheds new light on why this might be.
More than 120 people took part in a project designed to find out more about the barriers to people getting help when they experience sexual assault or rape.
They gave three clear reasons why people don’t come forward more readily to report incidents and get help. These were:
- Lack of awareness of services
- Lack of easy access to services
- Fear that they won’t get a high quality response from local services
Market research experts mbarc were appointed earlier this year by local public services to conduct in-depth research with groups of victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault, as well as with groups of people traditionally ‘seldom heard’ by public agencies.
The ground breaking research was specially designed to discover more about the barriers people experience to reporting a crime such as sexual assault and rape – and the steps that agencies like the NHS and the police should take in order to remove those barriers and encourage people to make those reports.
The report features 19 recommendations, ranging from establishing easier to access telephone help; more training for professional staff about the needs of victims, and clearer published service standards.
The work comes as a new service to help victims of sexual assault is preparing to open its doors. The Blue Sky Centre is being developed within the site of the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton. The new sexual assault and rape centre will service people of any age and gender, and people will be able to call the service direct to obtain help.
It will be operational early next year serving the whole of the Coventry and Warwickshire area.
Explained project co-ordinator for the Blue Sky Centre Tony Mumford: “We know that only a small proportion of people who experience rape actually report those crimes to the police. What this research shows us is that many people have a significant fear of taking even one step onto the pathway of services available to help them.
“Many never tell anyone about their experience, and yet this can be one of the most profoundly damaging and terrifying experiences that anyone might have.
“The more we can find out about how people feel services might help them in cases like these, the more we can do to make sure the right services are in the right place at the right time, and that people get the support they need.
“This research has helped us make sure we do just that. It is essential now that we study this evidence and act upon it wherever we can.
“It establishes a range of contacts with whom the service can work in future to strengthen local services. The response for people who have experienced rape and sexual assault is provided by a wide range of public and voluntary sector organisations, and needs to be as joined up and responsive as we can make it.”