New inquiry into sexual violence on Merseyside launched

Merseyside / November 23

A new inquiry which aims to uncover the true picture of sexual violence across Merseyside has been commissioned by the Deputy Police Commissioner and her partners.

The Sexual Violence review will examine the extent and nature of sexual violence in the region and map the services which are available to support those who have been subjected to such crimes. The inquiry, which has been launched to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women Day, will also reach out to survivors to hear about their journey following an incident, including how they were treated within the criminal justice system and the extent to which the support currently offered met their needs.

The research project has been commissioned by Cllr Emily Spurrell, the region’s Deputy Police Commissioner, in partnership with NHS England and will be carried out by Liverpool John Moores University’s (LJMU) Public Health Institute.

It will speak to partners in the region’s local authorities, agencies, experts, victims and their families, as well as drawing from a range of reports and qualitative data produced by Merseyside Police and partners, including charities RASA and RASASC, who deliver the Police Commissioner’s dedicated aftercare support service for survivors of rape and sexual assault.

The report could have a significant impact on both the understanding and funding of sexual crime support services. It will also feed into the Deputy Commissioner’s work to produce a region-wide Violence against Women and Girls strategy alongside the Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and a host of partners. The inquiry will also examine the issue of street harassment in Merseyside and the extent to which women experience unwanted sexual contact or attention in a public place.

Emily said: “Sexual violence ruins lives, destroys women’s emotional and mental wellbeing and leaves wounds that can last a lifetime.

“Sadly, sexual violence remains far too prevalent in our society. The launch of this review is an important step in better understanding the nature and extent of sexual violence in our region and provide a baseline from which we can monitor and assess the work we do in future years.

“Crucially, we will also be asking women who sadly have suffered these horrendous crimes to find out about their experiences of reporting an incident of rape or sexual assault. We want to hear about their journey through the criminal justice system and the path they took to accessing support to see if that process is working and whether it is working effectively. We know there is room for improvement. At the moment, far too many women do not get the support they need and deserve. This inquiry has the potential to help make a real difference in the lives of thousands of women.”

The project will get underway this month, conducted by LJMU’s Public Health Institute (PHI) in conjunction with partners. PHI specialises in applied research and educational programmes addressing health issues at all levels from policy development to service delivery.  LJMU were selected as the research organisation following a competitive tendering process and assessment panel.

Zara Quigg, Reader in Behavioural Epidemiology at the Public Health Institute, said: “We are delighted to have been commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner to conduct a review of sexual violence in Merseyside. The Public Health Institute is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Violence Prevention and as such we are looking forward to applying our international knowledge and experience to this project.”

The final report is expected to be produced by April 2019.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is held annually on November 25th.  Backed by the U.N., it aims to increase understanding and knowledge of the issues affecting women and highlight the support that is available locally, regionally, nationally and around the globe. The date also marks the launch of 16 days of activism that conclude on 10th December, which is International Human Rights Day.