Northern Ireland

The Rowan specialist sexual assault centre opens

Northern Ireland's first specialist sexual assault referral centre (SARC) has been officially opened in County Antrim.

The Rowan centre is based in the grounds of Antrim Area Hospital.

It is a regional service for all victims of rape and sexual assault

The service is for children, young people, women and men and is there to provide a range of services and support, including medical treatment.

The service also provides aftercare and support following an assault, whether recent or historical.

The service is available to all, regardless of whether or not they want to report the assault the police.

Speaking at the launch, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "Sexual violence and abuse have a devastating impact on victims and their families.

"Our collective aim should be to keep all children and adults safe from harm and to prevent them being abused. However, we sadly cannot prevent it all the time and it is vital that when it happens, we have services in place to help them deal with, and hopefully overcome, their experience.

Safe environment

"The Rowan is a tremendous facility that provides these services in a safe, secure and confidential environment.

"The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year and I would urge anyone - man woman or child - who is or has been the victim of sexual abuse to come forward and seek help."

Justice Minister David Ford said: "The housing of such specialist medical and forensic services under one roof, with the assistance from other statutory and voluntary organisations, will improve the standards of care and support available to victims at what is understandably a very difficult, unsettling and emotional time.

"Importantly, along with being a safe and caring environment, a key element of the Rowan will be the ability to obtain significant and timely evidence aimed at bringing the perpetrators of these dreadful crimes to justice."

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "This world class centre will provide a one-stop location for all victims who have experienced sexual assault, whether recently or in the past, through self-referral, third party referral or through our officers.

"The experience of being a victim of any type of crime is a very difficult one. However, the Rowan Centre will provide a complete and co-ordinated package of care to promote recovery and wellbeing and greatly enhance the investigative process."

Margaret O'Hagan, Interim Director for Acute Services for the Northern Trust, said: "The Rowan supports victims of sexual assault and abuse referred by the PSNI and from today extends that service to take calls directly from victims.

"The Rowan is a purpose-built facility with dedicated healthcare staff who work collaboratively with PSNI to provide physical, psychological and social care in a confidential and supportive environment."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites