Throughout this week we have been raising awareness of the work that is being done collectively by the force and our partners in relation to Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and the help and support that is available for women should they come forward and report a crime.
As a society we need to take a strong stance against attacks on women and girls who should be empowered to live their lives without fear of sexual objectification, harassment, or physical and mental abuse.
VAWG takes many forms and includes domestic abuse, physical assault, stalking, harassment and sexual violence.
Here at Merseyside Police we have the specialist Unity Team, which is a unit dedicated to investigating reports of sexual assaults.
The Unity Team is committed to investigating and providing wraparound support for victims throughout the whole investigative and criminal justice process. By working with victims we are able to maximise the chance of conviction, whilst at the same time ensuring that they receive the highest level of care, help, advice and support.
The team consists of specially trained detective constables and officers who work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and in partnership with Independent Sexual Violence advisors (ISVAs), Sexual Assault Referral Centre Crisis Workers (SARCs) and health professionals. In addition each Local Policing area (Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens, Liverpool and Wirral) across the force has a Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, made up of detectives with specialist training to deal with rape and sexual offences where the victim and offender are related. We are working hard to ensure constables in our emergency response team have an enhanced level of training to deal with initial reports of sexual offences.
Throughout the last year we have worked alongside partners, including the five local authorities, support agencies and the third sector, to protect and support women and girls who are faced with violence and sexual abuse.
Together we have introduced a number of initiatives, which are used alongside existing measures, to target and prevent VAWG and in relation to sexual offences we have:
Commissioned a new Strategic Sexual Violence Group where partners across the region are coming together to enhance our collective services for victims and to target prevention
Our dedicated sex offender management team work closely with the Probation service to manage the risk posed by those who are already known to us as Registered Sex Offenders
Worked alongside experts and partners to carefully consider the role policing will take in responding to street harassment
As with any crime, we recognise that we are most effective and provide the best support for victims when working in partnership. We already meet on a regular basis with our strategic partners and review demand for services to ensure victims are supported and able to access vital services. Together we are actively addressing the fears being raised about violence against women, with the ultimate aim of making our streets, homes and environments safer for women and girls.
Detective Inspector Lisa Milligan 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, but there is support available, not just from the police, but other organisations too.
“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.
“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.”
Senior District Crown Prosecutor Geoff Fryar said: “The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recognises that reporting a sexual attack can be a daunting step and share with the police the objective of securing convictions and bringing some level of closure for the victim.
“In CPS Mersey-Cheshire we have a Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit, staffed by specialist prosecutors trained in understanding victim vulnerabilities, the impact of trauma, consent and the myths and stereotypes around this type of offending.
“The CPS is an independent organisation, but we work very closely with our partners in the Criminal Justice System, such as Merseyside Police, to ensure that victims and witnesses receive the best support and assistance from the very outset and that together we build the strongest prosecution case possible.”
Click on the link below to find out more about the work of the Unity Team