If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, whatever your race, age, background or gender, then help is available to you.
That’s the message of a new week-long sexual abuse awareness campaign which launches nationally today (1 February) telling all victims of this crime that, ‘it is not OK.’
Leicestershire Police is supporting the campaign by partnering with other Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland agencies who all provide support to people who have experienced this type of abuse.
All of the services are available to adults and young people, regardless of whether or not the crimes are reported to the police.
‘It’s Not OK’ aims to reach those people who find it harder to report abuse. This often includes men, those from faith backgrounds, students, LGBT+ communities and older women. The week, which is running between 1-7 February, aims to reach those who have suffered from recent or historic abuse.
The campaign’s key message is that help is available – if you choose to disclose something that has happened to you, you will be listened to, treated as an individual and will receive specific tailored support.
The Government has been clear to reiterate that people can leave their home to ‘avoid injury or illness or to escape the risk of harm, such as domestic abuse’ during the renewed lockdown restrictions.
Support is also available for the friends and relatives of victims as their needs can get overlooked. It’s important for them to know there is help for them to deal with their experiences too.
Manager of Juniper Lodge (a Sexual Assault Referral Centre known as SARC), Millie Gant, said: “Sexual abuse and sexual violence are both sensitive topics and we hope that our involvement in the awareness week will encourage conversations about these difficult subjects.
“We know that there are barriers which impact on people choosing to come forward and we want to reassure those people that you will be treated non-judgementally. You have choices around whether to involve the police and also what support you want, you will not be pressured at all.
“The SARC is a safe place where you can discuss your options with a crisis worker regardless of your gender or gender identity. How you choose to proceed is entirely up to you, you will be wholly supported with all the decisions you make.
“If you have been a victim of sexual abuse or violence or have concerns about a loved one, please contact the SARC or one of our partner agencies to make the initial steps to deal with that has happened and to access counselling, advice and support to move forward.”
The three Leicestershire universities are also supporting the campaign. DeMontfort University (DMU) run the Mandala Project and host an annual ‘Light the Night’ march through campus each year in support of It’s Not OK. This year’s event will be virtual and will take place from 4pm on Wednesday 3 February. Details will be given via the Mandala Twitter account @dmu_mandala.
One of our partner agencies, Quetzal, who support woman who have suffered sexual abuse as children, are running a campaign called ''Breaking the Silence.” It aims to reach South Asian Communities living in Leicestershire to raise awareness about the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the counselling service that is available to them.
Marie Lefebvre, Project Facilitator for Quetzal said: “Our main hope at Quetzal is that female survivors of childhood sexual abuse from South Asian communities and beyond know that we are here to support them and that they can reach out when they are ready.
“Living with the impacts of childhood sexual abuse in silence can greatly impact someone's mental health, relationships, and day-to-day living.
“Having a confidential and private space once a week for an hour to share feelings and emotions with a counsellor is a great opportunity to find one's voice and acquire the tools to build a better future.”
Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland provide a vast amount of specialist services which provide emotional and practical help for victims and survivors whether they have reported their experiences to police or not.”
Details for our partner agencies are in the table below:
Are a health charity, supporting the LGBT+ community with their sexual and overall health needs and concerns