Today, for his bi-weekly local newspaper column, Chief Constable Kier Pritchard has been reflecting on Sexual Violence Awareness Week:
It’s not OK. You have probably seen this phrase in the media and on social media again recently.
It’s a hashtag or slogan now synonymous with the national campaign against sexual violence and abuse which we the police and our partners’ support.
You may have even seen some of our posts on social media publicising Sexual Violence Awareness Week last week which aims to highlight the help available to anyone who has been sexually abused or assaulted – be it recently or some time ago.
This area of policing is never straightforward. Most people if unfortunate to be burgled or involved in a traffic collision welcome police involvement. However, if someone has been sexually assaulted – a deeply personal attack – many more complex factors come into play.
A victim sometimes questions their attacker’s motives and, as many rapes or assaults are carried out by those who know their victim, the person who has been assaulted may worry about getting their attacker in trouble. Also, there is the fear of not being believed, concern they may get in trouble themselves or that the police just don’t care.
As a result, not everyone wants to involve the police.
I totally understand those reasons and perception but I please let me counter them.
We, as a police force, continually strive to improve our service to the public. We may not always get it right, but we try to do our best for the victim every time - which includes catching the perpetrator and investigating thoroughly so justice can be served.
If you call 999, 101 or report via our website you will be contacted by one of our officers trained in helping sexually assaulted victims. They will also help you contact support services like the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre or SARC - an independent service offering crisis care, medical and forensic examinations, emergency contraception and tests for sexually transmitted infections.
We also work in partnership with charities like Splitz in Trowbridge and the Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service who can give help.
You can go directly to the SARC by calling them on 01793 781916; Splitz Support Service on 01225 775 276 and Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service on 01793 610610.
As a chief constable, I would always urge anyone to report these awful crimes to us. You will be listened to. You will also be helping us identify the perpetrator and so protecting others from the harm they could continue to cause if left unpunished.
You are never alone and help is available 24/7 whoever you choose to contact.
I would say, whatever you decide to do - please do get support.