SEX crime victims in the Hambleton and Richmondshire areas are being urged to consider using a specialist support centre.
Victims who have visited Bridge House - North Yorkshire’s first sexual assault referral centre - since it opened last May said it had helped them rebuild their lives by providing advice and links to other services for long-term support.
Overall, 186 victims have used the services of the centre, 131 of which were referrals from North Yorkshire Police and 55 which referred themselves to the centre.
Sarah Murphy manager of the centre, which is funded by North Yorkshire Police and the NHS, said: “It is very satisfying to know that 55 people have made the first step in seeking help by calling the centre during its first year of operation.
“Victims have contacted us from across North Yorkshire, but less so in the Scarborough, Hambleton and Richmondshire areas and we will be concentrating on raising awareness of our services in those areas.”
People who self-refer to the centre do not have to speak to the police, allowing them time to explore options before deciding what they want to do.
Trained staff talk victims through the support available to them which will continue on the route they choose to take.
Medical facilities also mean that if appropriate, early forensic evidence can be obtained for use in future criminal cases if a victim is unsure of what to do in the early stages.
Ms Murphy said: “It’s important that victims know that the service is available to all men and women no matter where they live.
“If a person can’t travel to us, we can arrange to meet them at a location convenient to them.”
One victim who has visited the centre over historic sexual abuse said it gave her the confidence to report the offence.
She said: “I was asked if I wanted to consent to having the alleged offender’s information put on the police database so it could be checked to see if any other information about him was held.
“It would be anonymous and I could not be traced by the police. This was really important to me as I feared he may have abused others, but I was not at a point of wanting to report.
“The centre gave me a stepping stone between thinking about reporting to actually reporting.”
To contact Bridge House call 01904-669339 or visit turntobridgehouse.org