The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Public Protection Branch (PPB) have today, Monday 8th March, launched their sexual abuse and sexual violence victim support questionnaire.

Detective Chief Inspector Siobhan Ennis, PPB said: “Sexual abuse and violence is a horrific crime that can affect anyone - it doesn’t matter what age, gender, race or sexuality you are.

“Supporting victims of sexual violence is a major priority within our organisation. We want to deliver an exemplary service to every single victim. We want to promote confidence in the investigative process and ensure our victims are engaged and supported through the whole criminal justice process.

“It is not easy to come forward and speak to people who are essentially strangers. The trauma associated with such an intrusive and interpersonal crime can never be under-estimated; it often leaves victims confused and uncertain about proceeding with a formal complaint. Those who do, can sometimes, for a variety of reasons, withdraw before the process has concluded.

“However, I would like to take this opportunity to assure anyone who comes to us they will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity at all times. Whilst it is our responsibility to investigate, the welfare of the victim will always come first. We will be with them every step of the way and we will guide them through the whole investigative process – they will not be alone."

“To help improve the service we offer to victims of sexual violence we want to not only listen to their views and opinions but to hear and act on them. It is only by doing this that we can adapt and act on their feedback to improve our performance, secure better outcomes and give victims confidence in the police.

“This is where our victim questionnaire, which is broken into four key areas, comes into play. The questionnaire will be completed at the conclusion of the investigation, whether it has gone before the courts or the victim chooses not to proceed with their complaint. It will be up to the victim as to whether or not they wish to participate.

“Everyone’s opinion and thoughts will be pivotal in our quest to improve our services.

“The survey will be conducted via telephone by a Rape Crime Unit Sergeant who has had no involvement in the investigation.

It will address four key areas:

-Initial response: where emphasis will be on the first engagement by Local Policing Teams

-Initial meeting with specialist officer from Public Protection at The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre

-Victim support and quality of engagement by investigating officer throughout the course of the investigation

-Experience of the criminal justice process

“The data captured will be totally anonymous and completion is with the consent of the victim.

“By capturing this anonymous data it will assist us in identifying any areas that we need to improve on and give the police service a better understanding of our processes from a victims’ perspective. It will also be utilised to improve our training and development for both first responders (uniform officers) and specialist officers.

“I would like to take this opportunity to say to anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse or violence, no matter how long ago it occurred, to come forward to police and report it. It is never too late to seek justice through the court system. No-one should be subjected to this type of violence. No-one has the right to force themselves on you or make you do something that you are not comfortable with.

"There are also other agencies who are there to offer help and support. The Rowan Centre, Northern Ireland’s regional sexual assault referral centre (SARC) is a facility that offers a range of services and support to anyone who has experienced sexual assault, whether recently or in the past, through self-referral, third party referral or through our officers. The Rowan Centre works in partnership with the police but are independent of them.

“The experience of being a victim of any type of crime is a very difficult one. However, the Rowan Centre, will provide a complete and co-ordinated package of care to promote recovery and wellbeing and greatly enhance the investigative process."

Detective Chief Inspector Ennis concluded: “If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or sexual violence please contact the police on 101, or in an emergency always call 999. The Rowan Centre can also be contacted 24/7, 365 days a year on 0800 389 4424.”

“For further details please visit the Sexual Violence and Abuse section on our website.”

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