In welcoming the second annual national sexual abuse and sexual awareness week, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will want to spread the very clear message that any form of sexual abuse and sexual violence is completely unacceptable.
Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. Nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year and 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. In addition we know that only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police and approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.
PCSS are now responsible for commissioning victims services locally, hold the budgets and make the choices about how it is spent to help victims of crime. We are also the victims’ champion locally in the CJS, promoting awareness and working to ensure that the police tackle these two very hidden and very harmful crimes.
Central to this is the work PCCs are doing to encourage trusting relationships between these charities and organisations that offer much need support and the police. We know that it may very well be the case that some vulnerable victims – often deeply traumatised – are not ready to go to the police directly and may not want to go to them at all. However it is important, that perpetrators of these horrible crimes are brought to justice. Complainants may be readier to help if the charity they have gone to can satisfy them that local police will deal with them sympathetically. Even if all that is possible is that anonymous intelligence can be passed by a complainant to the police, it can help build up a picture of an offender and make it likely that he will be ultimately be arrested and tried.
PCCs also have a very important role within the wider criminal justice system, making it more accessible and helping to bring more offenders to justice. Alongside colleagues, in my role as APCC Victims Lead, I am working closely with the Ministry of Justice to make it easier for victims to go to Court and give their evidence, for example through supporting the roll-out pre-recorded cross-examinations and pressing the courts to understand that support organisations need to support vulnerable victims throughout the process.
PCCs are becoming increasingly part of the criminal justice landscape and, I believe, starting make a real difference. We are working closely with CJS partners and Government and, for example, are represented on the Victims Advisory Panel, on the HMIC domestic abuse stakeholder group and on the National Criminal Justice Board.
We support National Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week, and the work of the charities involved and hope to continue the important work that I and my PCC colleagues do, not just this week, but all year round.
Dame Vera Baird QC, APCC Chair and Victims Lead