Earlier this year Deputy Burford and I championed the need to launch a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Guernsey as soon as possible. Our amendment to the Government Work Plan was successful and achieved unanimous support from the Assembly. While we knew that Committee for Home Affairs was considering different avenues to support victims of domestic and sexual abuse, we strongly promoted the opportunity and need to launch something fast and explore partnership opportunities with charities to achieve a result faster.
Plans for a SARC were included in the final Government Work Plan, the Assembly plan for work for this political term, indicating 2023 as a launch date.
It is fantastic news that Home Affairs have just announced that the launch will be brought forward, albeit a formal date has not been announced:
Here are my full comments to Guernsey Press on the subject:
“We know that Sexual Assault is a serious issue in many communities and Guernsey is no exception. In 2020 Bailiwick Law Enforcement reported 112 cases of Sexual Assault. This is not just an issue for women and girls, although they are the majority of victims, 13 cases out of 112 were identified specifically as indecent assaults on male adults, children and young persons.
This figure is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg and studies in the UK show that the number of cases that actually goes unreported is a multiple of official figures.
Part of the reason is that victims of sexual assault have to go through the Law Enforcement system, which can be an intimidating and impersonal experience and so many choose not to
While several charities such as Safer and Bailiwick of Guernsey Victim Support and Witness service help provide some of the much-needed support victims need, there are significant gaps. A Sexual Assault Referral Centre is an essential missing block that will help provide the support needed in a way that aims to destigmatise the process and actually encourage more islanders to come out and talk about their experiences. A SARC should also include a professionally resourced forensic center that can take necessary samples and physical evidence to document sexual crime, which may be essential down the line to prosecute offenders, which in hand can raise the profile of repercussions of this crime and lead to its reduction.
We also know that our community and charities have been crying out for a SARC for a long-time.
The Assembly supported unanimously the amendment brought forward by Deputy Burford and myself in March to ensure that a SARC was part of the Government Work Plan. We were always pushing for a SARC to be established asap and so it was disappointing to see that it was originally planned for 2023. It’s therefore very good news that the Committee for Home Affairs has recently recognised that this can wait no longer and there are very serious issues for leaving such a gaping hole and have brought forward the launch of a SARC.
I hope that Home Affairs will work in partnership with the third sector, which has a long established practice of victim support of domestic and sexual abuse, so that a comprehensive provision can be launched for islanders as soon as possible.”