Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

One-year-old child referred to new sexual abuse unit

Health Minister Edwin Poots, Justice Minister David Ford and PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott open The Rowan' Northern Ireland's only regional Sexual Assault Referral Centre

The youngest victim treated at Northern Ireland's first specialist sexual assault referral centre (SARC) has been a one-year-old child, an abuse charity has said.

The shocking statistic comes as The Rowan facility in Antrim was officially opened yesterday.

Based at Antrim Area Hospital, the centre has been open for police referrals since May. The service has now been extended to take calls directly from victims.

It also provides aftercare.

Charity Nexus NI which works with survivors of sexual violence and abuse for over 25 years was on the steering group for the development of The Rowan.

Nexus chief executive Pam Hunter said: "Sexual violence is an area of hurt to the people of Northern Ireland which has been kept under the radar until now.

"The (Jimmy) Savile inquiries have pushed the topic to the front of the media agenda, the result of which was a 40% increase in new calls to Nexus NI in the one month the inquiry was launched."

Ms Hunter said an independent study of Nexus NI by Queen's University revealed that one-third of those helped by the charity have attempted suicide at least once.

"It is a fact that 68% of Nexus NI clients have been abused by a family member or someone they knew and many reported having been groomed from an early age. This ties in with The Rowan's statistics to date, stating its youngest client has been only one year old."

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "Our collective aim should be to keep all children and adults safe from harm and to prevent them being abused. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year and I would urge anyone– man woman or child –who is or has been the victim of sexual abuse to come forward and seek help."

For more, log on to www.therowan.net.

FACTFILE

The services offered include:

Forensic medical exam by a specially trained doctor

Emergency contraception

Treatment to help prevent the onset of HIV in those who are at risk (administered within 72 hours of assault)

Treatment for STIs

Support in making a report to the police

Referral to support services e A 24-hour advice and information line 080 0389 4424.

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