Page last updated at 06:59 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

'More support' for abuse victims

Distressed woman (generic)
The consultation aims to provide more help and support for abuse victims

Support services for victims of sexual assaults will be improved across Wales under assembly government plans.

Health minister Edwina Hart is consulting on how to ensure Sexual Assault Referral Centres (Sarcs) are of a consistently high standard.

Proposals include ensuring victims can get 24-hour help, along with emergency contraception and drugs for infections.

Libby Jones, of charity New Pathways, which helps victims, said she hoped it would secure the future of the centres.

The assembly government wants to ensure all victims can receive the same level of support.

The public consultation will look into issues including emergency access to contraception and drugs to prevent sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

We have so many reports from victims who said without New Pathways I would have killed myself or not gone through the courts
Libby Jones, New Pathways

It will also look to provide help for victims at a Sarc any time of day or night, along with counselling and support if the case goes to court.

Another proposal is to ensure forensic evidence is gathered after an attack to enable it to be used in any subsequent criminal investigations.

Ms Hart said: "Sexual assault is both a common and very serious crime.

"For victims, these crimes represent a violation of the basic right for an individual to be treated with dignity and respect, and to live without fear of sexual violence."

'Secure future'

Ms Jones, chief executive of New Pathways, said the Sarcs she runs in Merthyr Tydfil, Swansea, Carmarthen and Risca, provide advocates for victims as soon as they report an attack, right through to any court cases and long-term counselling.

She said Wales had been behind England with its support centres - she set up the New Pathways Sarc in Merthyr in 2005 when she said England already had about 16 referral centres.

But she said Ms Hart had been keen to support Sarcs, and that any support and funding would help secure their long-term future.

"The Sarcs are life savers. We have so many reports from victims who said without New Pathways I would have killed myself or not gone through the courts," she said.

"Any input [from the assembly government] now will stabilise and secure their future - without help and funding they could be in jeopardy as we're charities and are currently working on a year-to-year level."

The proposals will now go out for a 12-week consultation.

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