The following are explanations of some options that you have after sexual violence. We understand that talking about these options may bring to mind a decision about whether to report to the police, and that statistically a large majority of survivors of sexual violence choose not to do this. At It Happens Here Durham we understand that survivors can use multiple strategies and coping mechanisms after their experiences, and that they may choose to report at a later date, choose never to do so, or wish to do so immediately. None of these options are lesser, and no survivor has a responsibility to report – nor does it minimise the severity of their experience if they choose not to do so. However, we hope to provide information and support to those who do wish to report or to get more information and consider doing so.
Rape Crisis offer free confidential counselling and support to survivors of sexual violence across England and Wales. In Durham our local centre is the Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre, which is based in Darlington but offers outreach support in Durham City. The support line is open Monday – Thursday 6.30 – 9.00 on 01325 369 933 and is staffed by trained volunteers who can offer confidential support to all survivors of sexual violence or those supporting them, and signpost to other appropriate services. Counselling and face-to-face support is also available for female survivors over the age of 13, and referrals can be made by contacting 01325 354 119 – women are encouraged to self-refer.
Sexual Assault Referral Centre
One route available if you want to keep the option of reporting the sexual violence you have experienced open to you but do not want to directly contact the police is the Sexual Assault Referral Centre. In Durham this is The Meadows – they can be contacted on 01913 018 554 and you can leave a message outside of office hours. If the assault is recent and a forensic examination is a possibility, the staff will endeavour to see you as soon as possible in order to get the best chance of collecting evidence. However, you can also contact the Meadows if the assault is not recent, and in both cases support and counselling will be an option for you. It does not matter whether or not you want to make a police report – you can take time and space to decide this yourself.
Directly contacting the police
If you are in immediate danger we would always advise you to call 999 – if you want to discuss a less recent experience of sexual violence with the police, you can either contact 101 or 0345 606 0365 if you are outside Durham. You can either make a report directly, or enquire about anonymous reporting options which may be available – this involves sharing information with the police without directly giving your name or pursuing a case, and can be helpful to an investigation if a perpetrator offends again and this is brought to the attention of the police.
At It Happens Here Durham we recognise that there are significant links between domestic and sexual violence and abuse, and that a large proportion of perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are the partner or ex-partner of the victim. If this has affected you and you need support, you can either contact RSACC (number above), the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (24 hour), or if you need local support Durham Women’s Refuge can be contacted on 01913 865 951.
Survivors UK – offering support to men who have been raped or sexually abused – 0845 122 1201 Mon and Tues 7 – 9.30 and Thurs 12 – 2.30
Rape Crisis National Helpline – for all female survivors of sexual violence, every day 12-2.30 and 7-9.30 0808 802 9999
What if I don’t want to contact one of these organisations?
We appreciate that often it can be incredibly difficult for survivors to pick up the phone and talk about their experiences – we also know that some people just don’t want to talk to someone they don’t know about what happened. Everyone who has experienced sexual violence has their own unique strategies to deal with their experiences, and statistics show that a large proportion never disclose to anyone at all. We hope to help create the space for all of us to choose to talk about rape and sexual violence if we wish to, but this isn’t a requirement and it should always happen at the survivor’s pace. If you choose to express your thoughts and feelings through another means, such as talking to a friend, submitting your story to us or simply writing about it, any choice you have made is the correct and productive one for you at that moment in time.