Sexual assault services in the South West still open during COVID-19

The Coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown has seen a 49% increase in the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline run by Refuge. At the same time, the number of referrals to sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) has dropped. SARC logo

A SARC provides help and support to victims of rape or sexual assault. It’s a place where people can receive immediate medical care, forensic examination, guidance and advice from NHS professionals.

“It’s incredibly frustrating and very concerning” Lyndsay Howell General Manager of Devon & Cornwall SARC explained, “we know that levels of rape and sexual assault haven’t fallen, however people are seemingly more reluctant to come forward at the moment”.

Lyndsay went on to explain that people have been more reluctant to refer themselves or friends to the service since COVID-19, either because they are worried about taking up valuable NHS resources or because they are worried about catching COVID-19 through interaction with police or staff at the SARC. There are also cases where people have attended lockdown gatherings or parties, have been sexually assaulted and then not come forward because they are concerned about getting into trouble.

“We want to let everyone know that Devon and Cornwall SARC services are open for business as normal. We understand that regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic, people still experience sexual violence both within and outside of their homes and we want to reassure anyone who has need of our service, that they will be treated with kindness, care and respect no matter what the circumstances of the sexual assault are”.

The SARC will continue to provide its normal service for children and adults that have experienced sexual violence and has robust plans in place for safe management of adults and children with symptoms of COVID-19.

The SARC advice line on 0300 303 4626 is staffed 24/7 with experienced crisis workers for members of the public to discuss their options following sexual assault and rape. Paediatric Forensic Doctors are also available 24/7 for professionals to access expert advice and strategy regarding children that may have been sexually abused.

For further information about our services or to make a non-urgent referral then please go to

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Last updated: June 8, 2020