MORE than a third of victims using a support centre were raped or sexually abused before their 15th birthday.
Figures released this week by the West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre during the 16 Days of Action show 41 per cent of clients were 14 or under when the offence took place, with one per cent of clients from Redditch aged between six and ten.
A total of 11 per cent of those seen by the centre were aged between 16 and 20, 22 per cent were between 21 and 25 and 18 per cent were 26 to 30, with the remainder aged between 31 and 60.
Rape accounted for 45 per cent of incidents in Redditch, while child abuse was an issue in 39 per cent of cases and sexual violence in 16 per cent.
In 2013/14 there were 671 helplines calls throughout Worcestershire while the cost per victim of adult abuse has been revealed as more than £96,000, per victim of child sexual abuse over £135,000 and the overall cost of sexual violence in the borough has been estimated at more than £10.2million.
The centre has also recorded the impact on 107 clients in the area, with 34 reporting anxiety and panic attacks, 25 flashbacks, 12 drug or alcohol misuse and 14 low self esteem.
Five were on prescription medication as a result of the incident, 15 had self harmed, eight had suicidal thoughts and one had attempted suicide.
It has also been revealed the number of victims being referred into the National Centre for Domestic Violence has trebled – from 14 across Worcestershire in the whole of 2013 to 29 by the end of October this year. This follows intervention from Police and Crime Commissioner Bill Longmore and his deputy Barrie Sheldon who asked West Mercia Police to forge closer links with the organisation.
Mr Longmore said: “Domestic violence is, unfortunately, something that has become all too common in our society and it exists in every city, town and village in the country.
“Helping victims and reducing the problem isn’t just about ‘throwing money’ at the situation and hoping it improves though. It is completely about partnerships working together – local councils, charities, myself, the police, even down to families, friends and neighbours – because we are all fighting for the same thing, and that is to reduce the amount of harm being caused by domestic violence.”
A spokeswoman for the police said they were ‘committed to protecting people from harm and improving how we deal with sexual offences’ including specialist training of officers, greater access to sexual assault referral centres and working closely with support groups.
“We recognise that sexual offences remain under reported to police for range of reasons and that it take tremendous courage for a victim to come forward. Reports of rape to police in North Worcestershire have increased by 18.5 per cent over the last year when comparing 2013 to 2014 to date and we are encouraged more victims have the confidence to report crimes, knowing we will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice.”
Coun Yvonne Smith, responsible for community safety at Redditch Borough Council, said: “It’s sad to see that this is an issue in Redditch but these figures do show that, in some cases, help is being sought from the dedicated centres and the phone numbers available.
“As a council we always encourage people to find the strength from somewhere to report their abuse and we work closely with our partners to promote the support services that are available. Indeed, once again the borough council is fully supporting the White Ribbon Campaign and its 16 Days of Action.
“Throughout the campaign we will be working with many organisations to promote services and we will be publicly urging anyone who has been a victim of violence and abuse, regardless of gender, to seek help and support.”
To pledge support for eradicating domestic abuse and sexual violence in the county, visit www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk/worcestershire or follow the campaign on Twitter at #whiteribbon.
To speak in confidence about domestic abuse call 0800 980 3331 or about sexual abuse on 01905 724514.