Last week, REIGN got the chance to meet with some of the staff at St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester. Some of us have been before under different circumstances and we often comment on what a vital resource St Mary’s is to Manchester in our workshops.
Still, it was a great opportunity to look round the facilities to see where children or adults who have been sexually assaulted can receive first response support. Not all survivors of sexual assault are able to get to such a place in time to gather the vital evidence that may be needed if they choose to take their case to court, but for those that do, St. Mary’s will be there for them.
It’s clear that the space has been designed with the service user in mind. They show a great understanding of what is best for victims both immediately or years after rape or assault, they have created the best possible space in which to feel safe and supported, whilst making sure all procedures are professionally followed.
We were most pleased to see that survivors involved in court cases have the opportunity to do a video-link interview from the comfort of the centre, rather than going to court which can be a very scary experience, especially for children. This is so refreshing for us to see and we are relieved that children today who experience sexual assault are given this option which will make the whole court procedure a lot less re-traumatising for them. This shows us that young people’s needs have really been considered and the effort has been put in to meet those needs in the best way possible.
St. Mary’s offers a range of services for survivors of all ages and genders, from independent sexual violence advisors helping with choices and legal procedures, to counsellors and play therapists, helping survivors to begin their recovery.
After assault, it’s normal to want to go home and shower for hours, sleep off the shock, be alone, and have no one touching you, but this isn’t an option if DNA evidence, ripped clothes, or injuries need to be documented.
The staff at St Mary’s know that survivors need to be treated with care, respect, and be made to feel safe and in control the whole time. Without this support, they may not feel comfortable or capable of going through with the next steps to achieve justice and recovery.
On the 25th and 26th of April, REIGN will be giving a workshop at St Mary’s 16th annual conference; ‘Rape – Not an Isolated Issue: Sexual Violence and Multiple Types of Abuse’ at The Midland Hotel in Manchester. We’re looking forward to meeting more professionals and volunteers who care about making survivors experiences following assault as bearable as possible, and supporting them to begin feeling safe again. Early bird bookings for the conference are now available through St Mary’s website.