NHS pledges more support for victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse alongside powerful awareness campaign

Victims and survivors of sexual and domestic abuse are being encouraged to come forward for NHS help and care, as part of a major campaign backed by a £20 million boost to specialist services.

Two new clinical lead roles for domestic violence and sexual assault are also being created, alongside dedicated domestic violence support for the NHS and integrated care systems across the country.

The new campaign – which has backing from a royal and a former prime minister – is launching on the first day of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, and will highlight the specialist support offered at dozens of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) in England.

While the majority of victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse are women and girls, health service leaders are encouraging anyone who needs support to turn to the NHS at one of the country’s 24-hour centres. SARCs offer confidential specialist, practical, medical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused – regardless of when the incident happened.

A new survey found two in five people aren’t sure or do not know where to get help after being sexually assaulted, with 72% unaware there are NHS specialist sexual assault services who can offer confidential support. More than half of people who have experienced sexual assault also say they did not seek help afterwards.

It comes as NHS England announces a £20 million funding boost for sexual assault and domestic violence services over the next three years, including enhanced support services for victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse who have complex, trauma-related mental health needs.

The campaign, which will raise awareness of the centres and the support available, will also release a powerful short film that addresses common questions and concerns many people face after experiencing sexual assault, abuse or rape, including not knowing who or where to turn to.