By Tara Rippin • 20 March 2021 • 11:09
NHS urges sex crime and abuse victims to seek help following death of Sarah Everard.
WOMEN who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual assault are being urged to contact the NHS for support, as the number of people seeking help halved during the first lockdown.
Following the death of Sarah Everard and the outpouring from women sharing their experiences of assault and harassment, both in the home and in public, the NHS is calling for anyone who needs assistance to come forward.
Sarah, 33, disappeared when she was walking home through south London and tragically she was later found dead in a builder’s bag near Ashford, Kent.
Met Police officer Wayne Couzens has been charged with her kidnap and murder.
In the wake of the tragedy, Senior NHS leaders have also written out reminding staff how to spot signs a patient may have experienced abuse or assault and what support is available.
The move comes after the number of people receiving help from NHS Sexual Assault Referral clinics (SARCs) halved after the first lockdown compared with the previous year despite official figures showing that domestic abuse and sexual assault increased.
The specialist clinics offer people who have been raped or assaulted a range of help including medical examinations, emergency contraception, emotional support and pregnancy testing.
The clinics are run by specially trained NHS doctors, nurses and support workers who can provide the appropriate care for victims.
Patients do not need to report a crime to the police to refer themselves to a SARC for assessment, medical treatment and sexual health advice.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Director for Mental Health, said: “Throughout this pandemic, NHS services have been there for those who need them, including the victims of violence and sexual abuse.
“If anyone has experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, it’s important for them to know that a range of services, including mental health support, is available for you.
“Everyone is different and needs different types of support, but please remember that NHS is here to listen to you and support you.”
In July 2019 around 2,500 patients accessed SARC services but that fell to 1,250 in the same month last year.
While these numbers have steadily increased since last July they are still not at pre-pandemic levels.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have exacerbated domestic violence, with many victims trapped at home with their abusers.”
Official ONS figures show that domestic abuse cases have increased seven per cent in the period from April to June last year compared with the same period in 2019.
Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for NHS England said: “Combating domestic abuse is not just a medical mission, it’s a moral mission too and dentists are determined to play their part.
“Dentists and dental nurses are likely to meet patients with broken teeth and injuries to their mouths, so the NHS focus in this area is critical.
The number of people looking for help online for domestic abuse over lockdown has increased by more than 350 per cent compared to the previous year, said Hurley, while use of support lines and web chat activity has increased by 54 per cent and 70 per cent respectively for the same period.
Kate Davies, the NHS director of sexual assault services commissioning, said: “This is a key moment in time in the fight against domestic abuse and sexual assault, and NHS England is playing its part in helping victims get the help they deserve.”
*NHS Sexual Assault Referral clinics (SARCs) can be accessed via NHS.UK website.
Broader information on NHS support for sexual assault can be found on the NHS.UK website.
Free, confidential support is available via The Survivors Trust National Helpline 08088 010 818.
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Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
Since arriving, the mother-of-one has made her home on the Costa Blanca, while spending 18 months at the EWN head office in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
She loves being part of a community that has a wonderful expat and Spanish mix, and strives to bring the latest and most relevant news to EWN’s loyal and valued readers.
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