Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Justice Minister David Ford have launched the new ‘Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse in Northern Ireland’ Strategy.
The Ministers made the announcement at the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Antrim. The new Strategy has been jointly development by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department of Justice in conjunction with many key organisations across the statutory and voluntary & community sectors. At its core, the Strategy takes a zero tolerance approach to domestic and sexual violence.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Hamilton said: “Domestic and sexual violence and abuse can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or sexuality. These terrible crimes can ruin the lives of victims and can have long-lasting impacts on friends, family and the wider society as well.
“The clear message that we are sending out today with the launch of this Strategy is that domestic and sexual violence and abuse will not be tolerated in our society. My Department will continue to work with other government and voluntary & community bodies to ensure that victims receive the best support possible and to improve the effectiveness of preventative measures.”
The Strategy is constructed around five key strands which focus on leadership, prevention, support, services and justice. Within these strands, 20 priority areas have been highlighted for implementation throughout the life of the Strategy. The Strategy, which has been developed in conjunction with a diverse range of statutory and voluntary & community sector organisations, also sets out new definitions for both Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse for Northern Ireland.
Minister Ford said: “Domestic and sexual violence and abuse are sickening crimes that have a devastating impact on victims and their families. It is imperative that we seek to better protect and support victims and bring perpetrators to account.
“There has been considerable work carried out already to improve the services available to victims and support them on their journey through the criminal justice system. The publication of the Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Strategy is another important milestone. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to its development, particularly the victims who came forward to share their views. I hope that the continued focus on enhancing protection and seeking justice for the most vulnerable will be a lasting legacy from this mandate. The Department of Justice will remain focused on taking forward key justice priorities through working in partnership with all relevant statutory, voluntary and community organisations.”
The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre, jointly funded by DHSSPS and the PSNI, is the UK’s first purpose-built SARC. The Rowan provides services in the aftermath of a sexual assault, rape or an incident involving childhood abuse and offers services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Services offered at The Rowan include forensic medical examination by specially-trained doctors, risk assessment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, emotional support and support in making a report to the police. Since opening its doors in 2013, The Rowan has offered advice, support and direct care to over 1,800 individuals.
Minister Hamilton concluded: “I am delighted that we are able to launch this Strategy from The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre today. The Rowan provides a first class support service to victims of sexual violence and abuse across Northern Ireland and is a fine example of what can be achieved when we work together. Broken lives have already begun to be restored at The Rowan and I have no doubt it will play a key role in the fight against sexual violence and abuse.”
Notes to editors:
1.The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Department of Justice (DoJ), as the lead Departments in tackling domestic and sexual violence and abuse, have developed the new joint Strategy ‘Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse in Northern Ireland’. The Strategy builds on the work already achieved in the previous strategies, ‘Tackling Violence at Home’ and ‘Tackling Sexual Violence and Abuse’.
2.The Strategy and a Children’s version are available to view
3.The publication of the Strategy contributes to the DOJ Programme for Government Commitment 54 to tackle and reduce the level of serious crime and also DHSSPS Commitment 61, which highlights the need to introduce a package of measures aimed at improving safeguarding outcomes for children and vulnerable adults across Northern Ireland.
4.There are five key strands which focus on leadership, prevention, support, services and justice. 20 priority areas for taking the Strategy forward over the coming years have been identified and these will underpin the development of Action Plans within the life of the Strategy. The Strategy also launches the new definitions for both Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse which have been accepted and welcomed by key stakeholders.
5.Domestic Violence – PSNI statistics indicate that there were 28,287 domestic abuse incidents recorded in 2014/15, the highest level recorded since the data series began in 2004/05 (the 2014/15 figure is 35.0 per cent higher than the level of 20,959 recorded in 2004/05). More details can be found in ‘PSNI Trends in Domestic Abuse Incidents and Crimes Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland 2004 to 2014/15’
6.Sexual Violence – PSNI statistics indicate that there was a total 2,734 sexual offences in 2014/14 (737 rapes and 1,997 other sexual offences). Sexual offences have shown a general upward trend from a low of 1,167 recorded in 2000/01 to a high of 2,734 recorded in 2014/15; levels have increased each year since 2011/12. The number of sexual offences recorded in 2014/15 shows a 22.4 per cent increase when compared with 2013/14 and is more than twice the level recorded in 2000/01. More details can be found in ‘PSNI Trends in Domestic Abuse Incidents and Crimes Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland 2004 to 2014/15’ –
7.The Rowan – The Rowan, which opened in May 2013 in the grounds of Antrim Area Hospital, is the first purpose-built SARC in the UK. It is a centre of excellence for the treatment of victims of sexual violence and abuse and offers services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Rowan provides services in the aftermath of a sexual assault, rape or an incident involving childhood abuse. The service is jointly funded between DHSSPS and PSNI.
Services offered at The Rowan include:
- forensic medical examination by a specially-trained doctor (for adults, forensic evidence can be stored until you make a decision whether or not you wish to report to the police)
- assessment for and administration of emergency contraception
- risk assessment of HIV, and the administration of a course of treatment to help prevent the onset of HIV if you are considered at risk
- assessment and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
- emotional support
- support in making a report to the police
Since opening its doors in 2013, The Rowan has offered support, advice and direct care to over 1,892 individuals with referrals increasing by 18% in Year 2 and a further increase of 11% in the current year to date.
8.Victims of domestic or sexual violence in Northern Ireland can call the 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline, which is managed by Women’s Aid Federation NI and co-funded by DHSSPS, DoJ and the Department for Social Development through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The Helpline is open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2014/15, Helpline staff and volunteers managed over 34,000 calls. Tel: 0808 802 1414.
9.For media inquiries about this press release contact DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0505, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt