Hertfordshire Police is supporting the annual Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, as its Sexual Offences Investigation Team sees a significant increase in the number of cases being taken to court.
The Constabulary works alongside partner agencies including the victim support service Beacon, Rape Crisis and the Herts SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) which provides help and support to men, women and young people living in the Hertfordshire area, who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
The national campaign, which runs from Monday, February 3 to 9, aims to raise awareness of the support that is available to anyone who has been subjected to sexual abuse and sexual violence – regardless of age, gender, background or circumstances.
Detective Superintendent Kay Lancaster, head of the constabulary’s safeguarding command, said: “The message remains clear – sexual abuse and sexual violence is not ok. We take all reports seriously and have specialist officers on hand to offer support and advice to victims all year round.
“The increase in detection rates reflects our commitment to do all we can to bring offenders to justice and we will continue our hard work to bring even more people before the courts.
“If you have been a victim, please do not suffer in silence. There are a range of outside organisations who can help if you do not feel comfortable reporting it to police.”
The force also has a number of specialist investigation and safeguarding teams that support victims of sexual offences:
> The Sexual Offences Investigation Team (SOIT) is made up of specially trained detectives and deals with the most serious sexual offences, including rape, against adults.
The team has recently recorded an increase in detection rates year on year, taking them to second in the country for securing charges against suspects.
> The Child Online Safeguarding Team (COST) was set up to tackle and investigate offences against children on the internet, such as grooming or the sharing of child abuse images.
> The Joint Child Protection and Investigation Unit (JCPIT) investigates allegations of child abuse – including the sexual and physical abuse of children and criminal neglect cases. The team work alongside Hertfordshire County Council's Children’s Services to protect and safeguard those at risk of harm. The unit also has a specific team that investigates historic child abuse allegations.
> Halo is a dedicated team set up to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Hertfordshire. CSE occurs where an individual or group manipulates a child or young person into sexual activity, usually in exchange for something like presents, money or status.