York centre for sex assault victims opens
North Yorkshire's first sexual assault referral centre (SARC) has opened.
The centre in York, called Bridge House, provides access to services and support for victims under one roof.
Many other counties already have SARCs but it is the first such facility in North Yorkshire. It is being funded by police and the local NHS.
Det Ch Supt Simon Mason, from North Yorkshire Police, said the opening was a "major milestone". The force said services would be greatly improved.
Victims do not have to report crimes to the police to receive help and can contact the centre directly to make an appointment.
Forensic evidence can be gathered and stored until the victim decides whether or not they want to involve the police.
Julia Mulligan, the county's police and crime commissioner, said: "I am grateful to everyone involved over the last two years to bring the SARC to its opening today.
"I will now be working hard with health colleagues to ensure we can maintain the facility for the long term."
Det Ch Supt Simon Mason, the force's head of crime, said: "This is a major milestone for North Yorkshire. Having the SARC means that victims of some of the most harrowing of crimes can get all the professional help they need under one roof.
"They can explore all the options available to them, allowing them to make a choice, in their own time, about how they wish their case to be dealt with, safe in the knowledge that no evidence will be lost."