DORSET Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has described the work of the Shores Sexual Assault Referral Centre as "incredible."

The centre, which offers support to victims of rape and sexual assault, is situated in Bournemouth.

It offers a wide range of help – from crisis support workers who explain what their options are, to specialist nurses and doctors who are able to undertake examinations, talk about any medical concerns, and where appropriate gather forensic evidence.

Mr Underhill said: "While it is very sad that this service and others like it are so badly needed, clearly the emotional and practical support that The Shores is able to offer people, who have been through one of the worst experiences imaginable, is absolutely fantastic.

“Having visited The Shores, I have seen first-hand the incredible work done there by dedicated staff and volunteers to make victims feel supported and for their voices heard.”

The centre is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset and NHS England.

One service user said: “I was scared and worried with my anxiety, but I was reassured all the way and felt calm and relaxed, and was given a cup of tea.”

Another said: “They let me know when they were going to do the necessary medical stuff, and they were so patient, supportive and lovely! They made me feel very in control.”

People who are over 18 can come to the SARC without telling the police. If they decide to report the assault to the police, specially-trained officers are made available.

The service also provides independent sexual violence advisors, who can support victims in the weeks and months after their visit, liaising with agencies within the criminal justice system on their behalf. This service is provided through the charity Dorset Rape Crisis. They are also able to arrange sexual health screening at clinics nearest to where the victim lives.

Nikki Luffingham, director of commissioning health and justice south NHS England said: “Sexual Assault Referral Centres provide a vital, non- judgemental service supporting anyone affected by rape or sexual assault. Being cared for by specially trained staff and being able to talk through the experience is often the first step towards recovery. The Shores is providing a much needed and important service.”

Meanwhile, Diane Gray, crisis support worker at The Shores, said: “I always have a huge amount of respect for each and every person who decides to come to The Shores for support. It takes a huge amount of bravery and courage to share such personal information after experiencing what is often a terrible trauma.

“It’s important for us to empower the client to make their own decisions with regards to support, which will help them to take back control.”

Anyone who needs to contact the centre should phone 01202 552 056.