Abuse Warning Signs, Experience and Sexual Assault Referral Centres
WHAT IS THE SARC AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
This article aims to inform people in the UK about their options when reporting or seeking help against sexual violence. I aim to educate you with this information as it was never given to me when I needed it. This article is gender-neutral as anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. I am no professional by any means, but I do want to help and provide as much factual information due to my experiences. One thing I wish that I had known about sooner is the SARC (sexual assault referral centre). They are a fantastic life-saving organisation who will help you explore all your options as an individual.
According to Rape Crisis England and Wales, March 2017 1 in 5 women experience a form of sexual assault as well as 1 in 25 men. 90% of people who experience sexual assault know their offender. Only 15% of people who are victims of sexual assault report to the police; this low percentage is because many people feel as if they cannot speak out, should not, or they are scared. This is because they do not know all their options. Many people believe that if you speak up, you will have to jump into a police investigation when this is not true.
Why may you not feel ready to report?
There are many reasons why people feel as though they are unable to seek help or go to the police, and that is perfectly normal.
You may feel unsafe
You are not mentally prepared
You are worried about what other people may think
You may be in a relationship with the person
You worry that people will invalidate you
You are worried about a police investigation
THE SARC AND HOW THEY CAN HELP YOU
What Is The SARC?
You can use the NHS website to find the SARC nearest to you.
What is the SARC? “They are designed to be comfortable and multi-functional, providing private space for interviews and forensic examinations, and some may also offer sexual health and counselling services.” Their services are available to everyone of all genders and ages. They will help you regardless of whether or not you are choosing to report, and their services are free of charge. How they work; they will appoint you with an ISVA (independent sexual violence adviser). They will advise you on what steps you can take and lead you in the right directions. More about the SARC- https://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/sarc
How They Can Help You
They do not expect you to report to the police
If you do choose to report, they will guide you through the process
They are completely confidential
They can text and call
They meet you away from home / your preferred location, i.e. school or work.
They will point you in the direction of therapy/counselling if you feel you need further support.
Provide you with healthy coping mechanisms
Tips on identifying abusive behaviour:
- Physical abuse (punching, slapping pushing etc.)
- Making you feel guilty (manipulating you into doing things because they make you feel bad)
- Controlling ( looking through web history etc.)
- Making you fearful (threatening behaviour)
- Accusing you of cheating or they are cheating
- Stealing from you or forcing you to buy things
Early signs of abuse:
- Becoming critical of yourself and always worried about what your partner will think.
- Worried when your partner is angry because you cannot predict their behaviour
- Feel as though you are being taken away from family and friends
- Changing who you are to please family and friends
More information - https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/domestic-abuse/recognising-signs-domestic-abuse?gclid=CjwKCAjwk6P2BRAIEiwAfVJ0rL-nzHAUoNmmjfMzXWxrplcAzFZPV9L6Fiqtqggh6hDDIsS8CwDexRoCN4oQAvD_BwE
Getting help for abuse - https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-an
Photo Credit: Yamuna Shukla
How The SARC Helped Me
My personal experience with the SARC; When I was ready to speak up, I told them about my situation. I chose to report to the police, and they helped me every step of the way as well as pointed me in the direction of therapy to control my anxiety. They also gave me tips on managing my mental health as well as advice about dealing with things at home. They got in contact with the school so I could be in a safer environment as my offender was in my lessons. They are also entirely confidential. They would also text or call to check-in. I was not comfortable meeting at home so they would meet me during school hours, and we were able to speak confidentially.
Unfortunately, my case was historical (investigating the past); it did not have enough evidence to go to court; however, this does mean that the police have this information. As well as this it makes it easier for anyone else to come forward and hopefully prevent future offences.
Working through this and speaking out has been incredibly difficult, but along the way, I have recognised the people who genuinely care. Unfortunately, my case did not go to court that doesn’t invalidate my story; it means that there isn’t enough evidence. However, thanks to the SARC and the help they provided, I no longer feel like a victim but a survivor finally back on my feet and empowered.
I was never ready to come forward to any form of authority. However, I messaged my abuser about how I was feeling and what they had done. In return, the abuser told me that what I said was cyberbullying and slander and reported it to the teacher. We were both young. When I was in school, I felt as if there were only two options: report to the police or sit in silence and to not tell anyone. They offered me to go to therapy, a councillor, but I never received this, and the issue became neglected. Almost as though I was the one who had done something wrong. I was told, “this is detrimental to both your futures.” This statement was far from true. It was detrimental to their future, not mine. But of course, I was told they were only young, and young people make mistakes. Nevertheless, now that I have grown, I think to myself, but if they don’t face any consequences, how will they learn? The fact that society as a generalisation is protecting young people from these crimes makes so many of them think that it is ok and that they will get away with it and unfortunately a lot of the time they do.
When reporting sexual violence, it is encouraged to report as soon as possible, but for some people, they feel as though they cannot. I was still emotionally attached, and even though I knew what was happening, I was in denial. I convinced that I was in love despite what was happening, how could someone who brought so much joy bring so much pain? I was silenced and attached, and I felt guilty for even telling the teachers to the point where I apologised for speaking up. It is entirely natural to feel this way. Learning to recognise and escape is the most challenging task. Never blame yourself for staying in a toxic cycle; it is mentally exhausting and comes with so many complex emotions which can be challenging to identify. More than often, because the abuser can naturally believe they are a victim.
Eventually, years later, the situation was brought up amongst a group of friends, and he was calling me a liar. I felt trapped and had no choice but to go to the police. As this was happening, my friend in police cadets informed me about the SARC. I thought to myself, why hadn’t I been educated on this organisation before? Why isn’t this taught thoroughly in schools? Not just one assembly that everyone forgets about, not one poster at the back of the library or form room but something that we are all consistently aware.
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