Merseyside leaders unite to form new region-wide group to tackle sexual violence

Leaders from across the region are marking Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness Week by uniting to create a new pan-Merseyside group which will work to combat sexual violence, encourage more victims to come forward and further improve the support they receive.

The new Merseyside Sexual Violence Strategic Group will bring together leaders from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Merseyside Police, local authorities, the criminal justice system, health, education, support services, third sector, faith and survivor groups to improve the region-wide response to sexual violence, while ensuring all survivors receive the best possible support and safeguarding.

The group will focus its effort on increasing the reporting rates of sexual violence, by giving victims’ greater confidence to come forward, while also ensuring more offenders are brought to justice.

As part of its programme of work, the new group will map all the existing support services available to victims and work to ensure there is great awareness among survivors of the help they can access, whether they report to the police or not.

The new strategic group gathered for the first time last month to agree its vision and aims and will meet quarterly from 4 March 2021 to review progress against its action plan. The group’s work will feed into the Liverpool City Region Violence against Women and Girls strategy.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said, “Sexual violence devastates lives. Those who survive it deserve to be treated with the utmost sensitivity, care and respect. They deserve the highest standard of support and they deserve justice.

“While all the agencies involved in a survivor’s journey already work hard to provide this and to secure justice, we know there is more that can and should be done.

“As we mark Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, leaders from all sectors have come together to renew their commitment to providing improved safeguarding and support through this new region-wide strategic group.

“By bringing all the partners together we can create an action plan which will describe how the support provided to survivors of sexual violence can be improved and then ensure those improvements are being delivered. Action is already being taken and this new group will drive those improvements forward.”

Chair of the new Merseyside Sexual Violence Strategic Group, Merseyside Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Ian Critchley said: “Working with our partners we are committed to providing support to anyone who has experienced sexual violence and abuse. We know that anyone can be a victim of sexual violence regardless of gender identity, age and sexual orientation and we want victims to know that there is always help and support available.

“It’s never too late to access support. Merseyside Police has a specialist Unity team with officers ready to support and listen to you from the moment you report a sexual offence. We also work closely with partners to ensure victims have access to an array of support throughout the investigation and beyond.

“We know how traumatic incidents such as this can be for victims and their families, but if you can find the courage to come forward and speak to us, we are ready to listen, care, and investigate reports thoroughly professionally and empathetically at all times – our staff really do care about the quality of service we provide when investigating such impactive crimes.

“As Chair of the Merseyside Sexual Violence Strategic Group I am committed to ensuring that all victims receive the best possible support and safeguarding whilst working hard together to seek to prevent and reduce sexual violence occurring across our region”.