Centre to support Sussex rape victims opens

Rape Crisis Surrey and Sussex opens a centre in Crawley - Crawley MP Henry Smith, RCSAS CEO Yvone Traynor, Mayor Cllr Chris Cheshire, counselling lead Laura Joanknecht, independent sexual violence advocate manager Rebecca Hitchen and Nina Mistry, policy manager at the Ministry of Justice - staff photo

Rape Crisis Surrey and Sussex opens a centre in Crawley - Crawley MP Henry Smith, RCSAS CEO Yvone Traynor, Mayor Cllr Chris Cheshire, counselling lead Laura Joanknecht, independent sexual violence advocate manager Rebecca Hitchen and Nina Mistry, policy manager at the Ministry of Justice - staff photo

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A specialist centre to help survivors of rape and sexual abuse in Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley opened in Crawley today (Friday June 26).

Funding from the Ministry of Justice has made it possible for Rape Crisis Surrey and Sussex (RCSAS) to expand its work here following success in South London.

With no other similar support offered between Guildford and Croydon in the north and Brighton in the south, it will primarily help women in the East Surrey, Crawley, Horsham, Mid Sussex and Wealden areas.

CEO Yvonne Traynor said: “The RCSAS Crawley centre exists to fill the gaps existing in the current survivor support network in Surrey and Sussex. It aims to bring expert services to any female survivors of sexual abuse in the local area - including those hard-to-reach-groups.”

The Crawley branch will serve female survivors of sexual abuse across East Surrey and Sussex. It will provide access to specialised counselling, an independent advocates to help victims taking their cases to the police and through the courts as well as an outreach and education service trying to break the silence sexual abuse in society.

Rebecca Hitchen, independent sexual violence advocate (ISVA) manager said: “This service is so vital. Every survivor deserves access to specialist support is just so important.

“We (advocates) work with women who are thinking of reporting sexual violence or have reported it.

“It’s about letting them know what they can expect from reporting it. We are completely led by the client. We don’t push or pressurise.

“It’s about what the client thinks is best for them.

“We explain the legal process, support them at trial if it reaches trial, go to the police station and arrange visits to courts before a trial, and just work with them to recognise the strength they have shown to survive and get through it.”

Crawley mayor Chris Cheshire, who was at the launch on Friday (June 26), said: “This is long overdue. In intend to do my best to circulate this information as far and wide as I can so it becomes known in our community that there is work going on with empower women to disclose problems of sexual violence.”

Henry Smith MP added: “I think support for women and girls who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse has not been as strong as it could be and this centre will play a vital role in supporting victims deal with this appalling crime.”

The Rape Crisis helpline 0808 802 9999 is open everyday from 12noon-2.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm. For more information go to www.rasasc.org.uk

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