Merseyside Police, alongside three other forces, are piloting a new service to report rape, sexual assault and other sexual offences online – with the option to report anonymously.
The new online Rape and Sexual Assault reporting service is now live on the websites of Merseyside Police, British Transport Police, Dyfed Powys Police and Leicestershire Police.
It was created by the National Police Chief’s Council’s (NPCC) Digital Public Contact Programme (DPC) and launched on Tuesday 30 November. The pilot will run for six weeks.
The new service will enable people who do not require immediate police assistance to report the crime via their local force website. Traditionally people wishing to report sexual offences have been directed to call police forces, text 61016 in the case of British Transport Police, or dial 999 in an emergency.
Anyone who wishes to use this method to report will firstly be asked a series of questions to make sure reporting online is right for them. People can report something that's happened to them, or to someone else. All reports can be submitted anonymously, without giving any personal details. If reported anonymously, the police will only contact that person if there is believed to be an immediate threat to their life.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Parry from Merseyside Police said:
“Taking those first steps to report a sexual offence can be daunting and there are many reasons why people find it hard to do, including the unwillingness to provide personal details. We understand this and have been looking at how we can encourage people to report, which can help us prevent further crimes and bring offenders to justice.
“This new service has been designed in consultation with more than 40 organisations (including Rape Crisis, End Violence Against Women and the Survivors Trust). If successful, it will become a permanent reporting feature for all forces to adopt.”
Detective Chief Inspector Parry added: “I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence to come forward and report it. There is no time limit for reporting this type of crime and we take every report extremely seriously. We have specially trained officers who will speak to you and support you through any investigation or criminal proceedings and can help you get any further help you may need.
“I would reassure anyone who has suffered a sexual offence that you will be treated with care, sensitivity and professionalism throughout the investigative and criminal justice process and beyond.”
Dr Michelle Carroll, Clinical Lead of SAFE Place, Merseyside, the Sexual Assault Referral centre (SARC) in Merseyside said, “We welcome any initiative that will aid individuals who have experienced sexual abuse to come forward and access the relevant help and support.
"At SAFE Place Merseyside we strive to provide the highest standard of care both in terms of evidence gathering and addressing any healthcare needs. We will endeavour to work closely with our partner agencies to ensure that people using this new online service receive a sensitive and appropriate response.”