<p>The Duchess of Cornwall and Theresa May </p>

The Duchess of Cornwall and Theresa May

Duchess of Cornwall and Theresa May back NHS campaign urging abuse victims to seek help

The campaign is highlighting the support available at dozens of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) in England

Charlie Duffield
Monday 07 February 2022 09:48
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The Duchess of Cornwall and former prime minister Theresa May are backing a campaign to encourage domestic and sexual abuse victims to find help via the NHS.

Launched today, as part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the campaign is highlighting the support available at dozens of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) in England.

The health service is also creating two new clinical lead roles for domestic violence and sexual assault.

NHS England (NHSE) said the 24-hour centres offer confidential specialist, practical, medical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused, regardless of when it happened.

Camilla has long been vocal on domestic abuse issues, and plans to visit one of the specialist centres this week to meet survivors of sexual assault, to better understand their experiences and the care they’ve received.

In response to the campaign, Mrs May - whose government introduced the domestic abuse bill, that became legislation last year - said victims of sexual assault and abuse need to know “the NHS is there for them”.

She said: “Sadly incidents of domestic abuse and sexual assault increased during lockdown and the extra funding for services for victims of abuse and sexual violence is much needed.

“Dedicated domestic violence support for the NHS and integrated care systems is particularly welcome as local medical care plays an important role in identifying abuse and supporting victims.”

A short video raising awareness of the help offered by specialist centres has been released as part of the campaign, which is supported by organisations such as the Survivors Trust, SafeLives and the Male Survivors Partnership.

According to NHSE, whilst official figures show domestic abuse and sexual assault increased during the pandemic, the number of people receiving help from SARCS halved after the first lockdown, in comparison to 2019.

Laura Currer, chair of the national NHS England sexual abuse and assault services lived experience group, said: “I know from experience how hard it can be to seek help in these situations, but after I was assaulted I will never forget the kind, caring and compassionate staff at SARCs who were there to hold my hand during one of the worst moments of my life.

“They explained the whole process to me, and gave me the space and autonomy over my body that my attackers had taken away, and I will be forever grateful.

“I urge anyone who needs support, no matter when it took place, to come forward - you are not alone, and the wonderful teams at SARCs are there to help 24/7.”

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