First look inside new Angel Centre, set up to support victims of rape and sexual assault

The centre is in an undisclosed location.
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A new first-class facility will allow North East victims of sexual assault and abuse to get medical, practical and emotional support.

The Angel Centre was officially opened by Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness today, Wednesday, November 29.

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The new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is a service for anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault in the Northumbria Police force area.

(from left) Head of Mountain Healthcare Keeley Rowe, NHS England National sexual abuse and assault lead Kate Davies, Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness with Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson and NHS Head of Health & Justice Jessica Redhead(from left) Head of Mountain Healthcare Keeley Rowe, NHS England National sexual abuse and assault lead Kate Davies, Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness with Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson and NHS Head of Health & Justice Jessica Redhead
(from left) Head of Mountain Healthcare Keeley Rowe, NHS England National sexual abuse and assault lead Kate Davies, Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness with Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson and NHS Head of Health & Justice Jessica Redhead

"If you’re attending a SARC, you’re likely to have just been through one of the worst experiences of your life – a truly abhorrent crime," said Ms McGuinness.

"It’s imperative that for someone who has been brave enough to come through the doors of the centre, we get everything right – the discreet comfortable environment, the specialist support and also the evidence gathering.

There has been a great deal of thought and hard work that’s gone into ensuring the Angel Centre is somewhere survivors feel safe and comfortable as they embark on their journey to recovery.

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"I want victims to know what to expect, what type of place and service awaits them, so they feel confident in coming forward. I want victims to know about it, know it’s one of the best of its kind and know they will be looked after here.

A medical examination room at the centreA medical examination room at the centre
A medical examination room at the centre

"As well as providing everything they need to cope and recover from their horrendous experience we must ensure we’re in the best position possible in terms of evidence too, should the victim choose to so seek justice and ensure whoever is responsible ends up behind bars."

Anyone arriving arrives at the Angel Centre will be offered a forensic medical examination if there is evidence to be gathered - even if they don't want to prosecute.

And samples can be stored for up to two years in case they change their mind.

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Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson, of Northumbria Police, urged anyone affected to seek help - even if they did not wish to bring charges: "As a Force, we take all reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and are absolutely committed to supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.

"The Angel Centre is a fantastic facility which first and foremost provides specialist, tailored support to survivors. It is also somewhere we can secure evidence to help pursue an investigation to bring those responsible for such abhorrent offences to justice.

"Recognising how difficult it can be for victims to come forward, a key aim of the centre was to create a space and environment where people feel as safe and comfortable as possible.

"We hope that knowing that this centre exists will encourage more brave victims to take that initial step and increase their confidence in coming forward to seek support. We want our message to all victims to be a clear one – we are here for you."

The centre was opened todayThe centre was opened today
The centre was opened today
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The opening of the new centre comes as more victims are choosing to come forward. There have been 570 SARC referrals in the last year in the Northumbria force area. and service use has increased by 27 per cent since April 2022.

The centre has been developed with input from survivors who have previously accessed similar centres as well as working closely with colleagues from across the health and emergency services.

Kate Davies CBE ,is NHS England’s National Director on commissioning SARCs: £Whilst I hope that no one will ever have to use a SARC, for people who have experienced recent or non-recent sexual assault and abuse or rape, these services are here for them," she said.

"It can take a lot to pick up the phone and take that first step – SARCs are available at any time of day or night, and will support individuals through the whole process, whatever they decide to do.

Northumbria Police and Commissioner Kim McGuinness opened the centreNorthumbria Police and Commissioner Kim McGuinness opened the centre
Northumbria Police and Commissioner Kim McGuinness opened the centre
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"The Angel Centre is no exception and has worked tirelessly with people who have lived experience to ensure a safe space is provided to those who need it."

Keeley Roe is Associate Head of Healthcare with Mountain Healthcare, which will operate the centre: "The opening of The Angel SARC is not merely opening doors but an avenue for sexual assault victims in the North East to receive the free, quality and confidential care and support that they deserve. In partnership with the NHSE and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner," she said.

"We are committed at Mountain Healthcare to providing the best quality healthcare and trauma-informed services to ensure equal, effective and efficient care to every patient in the North East 24/7/365."