Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland’s first Sexual Assault Referral Centre opens

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Health Minister Edwin Poots and Justice Minister David Ford have welcomed Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall to the opening of Northern Ireland’s first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

Known as ‘The Rowan’, the centre at Antrim Area Hospital will support all victims of sexual violence and provide victims of rape and serious sexual assaults with a safe, secure and confidential environment.

Speaking at the opening, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “This is the first facility of its kind in Northern Ireland and the first in the UK to offer such a comprehensive range of services under one roof. The Rowan is a significant step forward in supporting all victims of sexual violence, which has a devastating impact on victims and their families. The opening of this service is very much welcomed and I am pleased that the Duchess of Cornwall was able to join us for this important milestone.

“I am very much aware that sexual violence is a serious problem in Northern Ireland, and that it affects people from all cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds and across all age groups. The statistics show that for the 12 month period to end of February 2013, there were 1892 sexual offences recorded by PSNI. However as these are only the reported incidents, we know this is just the tip of the iceberg and that many incidents go unreported.

“Our collective aim should be to keep all children and adults safe from harm, to prevent them being abused. However, when it happens, and sadly we cannot prevent it all of the time, we need to have services in place to help them deal with, and hopefully overcome, their experiences.”

The Rowan delivers a 24/7 service 365 days per annum to victims of sexual crime by PSNI referral only. The clinic is open each week day (Monday to Friday) from 9.00am to 5.00pm, with an on-call response service from 5.00pm-9.00am and 24/7 at weekends and bank holidays. From September 2013, The Rowan will be available to those who wish to self refer.

Justice Minister David Ford said: “Northern Ireland’s regional Sexual Assault Referral Centre, The Rowan, will provide victims with a safe, secure and confidential environment.

“My Department, working in partnership with other statutory service providers and the voluntary sector, remains absolutely committed to addressing the needs of all victims of sexual violence and abuse.

“I believe that through partnership working we will provide better support to victims and survivors of sexual crime and that the establishment of this very important facility will assist victims in achieving best evidence and bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Rowan is a bespoke building on a brown field site which has been architecturally designed with the psychology of the victim in mind.

2. There are three self-contained forensic pods within The Rowan, one of which has been specifically designed for child victims and is also suitable for use by those with a disability.

3. Each pod also has a waiting room for friends and family providing seating and vending facilities and there is also a private garden area for each pod allowing the victim to take a break if required.

4. The Rowan offers a range of services including a comprehensive assessment of their needs and depending upon those assessed needs, various support/ agreed care pathways are followed. The emotional needs and psychological wellbeing of the victim is considered as part of the consultation.

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