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Essex working together to reduce harm caused by sexual abuse and violence

Key partners from across Essex are working together to look at reducing the impact caused by sexual violence and abuse.

As part of Sexual Abuse Awareness Week, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, the Chief Constable of Essex Police and the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the region, brought together a range of senior leaders and stakeholders from across the county in a first of its kind event.

The workshop, held at the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service headquarters at Kelvedon Park, heard from a number of speakers, including a survivor of sexual abuse about their experiences and the harm they endured. This person is now receiving specialist help and support from the Essex Rape Crisis Partnership (ERCP) – a service commissioned by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex.

Around 45 attendees, including representatives from the police, courts, CPS, local community safety partnerships and health services, discussed a number of key areas. These included:

  • bringing together agencies to understand the key issues in tackling sexual abuse across Essex
  • understanding the needs of those experiencing sexual abuse
  • considering and developing a partnership approach to combatting sexual abuse, and to identify opportunities to improve how agencies can work together in response to help survivors

Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Sexual abuse and violence is an abhorrent crime and we must all work together to help survivors and bring perpetrators to justice. It was heartening to see so many of our partners coming together to focus on this important issue. I would also like to say a heartfelt thanks to the survivor who came along to tell their story. It took a great deal of courage. Her honesty really helps us to understand what we need to do better together to support survivors of such crimes to cope and recover.”

Speaking after attending the event, our survivor, said: “Whilst I was understandably nervous, both at being in a room full of criminal justice professionals and the thought of speaking in front of them, I was amazed and empowered by how much easier than I imagined it would be, it was to talk to the group.

“I do know, before having specialist counselling, I would never have had the confidence or emotional security to discuss the benefits of sexual violence counselling publicly, let alone to a professional audience. What really helped was the evident commitment to improving outcomes and how affirming was the expressed desire to affect change for complainants, non-reporting victims of rape and the current procedures.

“I have been left with a renewed respect for these committed women and men, and profoundly hope that this initiative bears tangible results.”

The Chief Constable of Essex Police, Stephen Kavanagh, said: “Getting partners from criminal justice and health together to share experiences and ideas is absolutely essential and hearing from victims and listening to their stories was both moving and inspirational. It’s crucial that victims have confidence in the help and support we can offer and Essex Police has invested heavily in making sure our teams have the people and training victims need to protect them.”

Jenny Hopkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England said: “This workshop was an ideal opportunity to hear from a range of organisations about how we can tackle sexual abuse across Essex and continue to work together to support those who have suffered abuse.

“We in the CPS work closely with the police to build strong cases and ensure the right person is charged with the correct offence. In Essex, we have a police officer embedded in a team of specialist prosecutors in our Rape and Serious Sexual Offences units which has been praised by HM CPS Inspectorate as good practice.

“Cases such as this are among our most difficult cases because often offences occur in private and only two people know the truth of what happened. The prosecutor’s job is not to decide whether someone is innocent or guilty, it is to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for a case to go to court and it is in the public interest to do so. If a case does go to court then we can help in supporting the complainant by applying to the court for special measures such as screens or live video links to help them give their best evidence.”

Anyone who has a questions or concerns, or who has experienced sexual abuse is encouraged to contact the Essex Rape Crisis Partnership via https://synergyessex.org.uk/ or 0300 003 7777, or to visit the Essex Victims Gateway for more information.

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PFCC for Essex, Kelvedon Park, London Road, Rivenhall, Witham, Essex, CM8 3HB
01245 291600

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