Rising rate of children referred to specialists following sexual assault

The Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Ipswich

The Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Ipswich

Two in every five people referred for medical or forensic examination following sexual assault in the last six months were under the age of 18, a report has revealed.

Police said the doubling of paediatric consultant provision at Suffolk’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) had increased the confidence of agencies to refer children and young people for examination.

A report said the uptake of referral into the child SARC had increased in the last half-year period – with under-18s making up almost 40% of all attendances for medical or forensic examination.

Meanwhile, overall increase in demand for all age groups has gone up 148% in a year.

Suffolk’s SARC is staffed and equipped to collect forensic evidence of sexual assault, while looking after the immediate health care needs, and protecting the dignity and identity of victims.

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The centre is also staffed by nine specially trained Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) – each able to offer a range of practical and emotional support.

A report on the force’s approach to safeguarding children and young people said the attendance of under-18s had increased 22% on the previous six months despite a general fall in referrals for all age groups to SARCs across the region since Covid-19 restrictions came into effect.

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The report, presented to the police and crime commissioner’s latest accountability and performance panel meeting, said the rise may have been down to professionals gaining confidence in referring young people as a result of a simplified pathway introduced earlier in the year.

Concerns about a lack of referrals had also been addressed by a series of training events to social care teams.

Meanwhile, the ISVA service continued to provide remote support from March.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “In the last year, the paediatric consultant provision at the SARC has been doubled.

“This increase in the dedicated/specialist support provision available was widely shared with all partners and may have increased the confidence of those referring children and young people to the SARC service.

“Our priority is ensuring that victims and survivors of sexual abuse are fully supported throughout.”

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