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Charity Family Matters renews plea for 24-hour rape centre

Family Matters
Family Matters

A charity is renewing its calls for better services for rape victims in Kent.

Currently the county doesn't have a dedicated 24 hour Sexual Assault Referral Centre [SARC] - with crisis workers ready to attend to victims brought in for examination by police.

Instead most sexual abuse victims are taken to the Renton GUM clinic at Darent Valley Hospital to be forensically tested, by an on-call doctor – which in most cases is a male.

Operations Director of Family Matters in Gravesend, Malcolm Gilbert, says the SARC at Darent Valley is under-equipped and under-staffed - making examinations for rape victims 'insensitive'.

He said: "At the proper SACRs in the rest of the south east, they have especially trained crisis workers who explain what is going to happen to you next and after your forensic you have the option of a shower - that's not available at the facility at Darent.

"Your clothing will be come evidential and there is nothing at the forensic centre to give you so you can go home in something appropriate, instead a police officer has to go home and get them for you - this is really not good enough."

A woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken to police to be examined at Darent Valley.

Audio: An alleged victim of rape speaks out about her ordeal

She said the experience was humiliating: "Police turned up and took me straight through the main gates, don't forget I was bloody, bruised up and my face was double the size and everyone's there staring at me.

"You feel degraded as it is and the fact that everyone's staring at you thinking you've got two coppers with you and you’re badly bruised up, it feels like what else can go wrong."

Kent became the only county in the south east without a 24-hour service in 2010 and since then the charity’s been calling on Kent Police and other agencies to provide a better service for people who have been sexually abused.

Mr Gilbert added: "This is a nasty violation of you as a human being and we need to get much better in Kent at dealing sensitively with the needs of these rape victims who are very vulnerable at the time of their assault."

In response to the support group’s calls head of public protection, rape and sexual assault for Kent Police, Maria Shepherd said: "We've invested money into these services and there’s always room for improvement.

"There are multi-agencies working towards improving the service for victims - that includes with working with voluntary groups."

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