TRAUMATISED rape victims can get specialist support from a centre being launched in Bournemouth today.

Anyone over 16 who has been sexually abused, regardless of whether it was yesterday or years ago, can get help and advice at Dorset Rape Crisis.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced its establishment last year after the town was identified as an area with people most in need of face-to-face counselling and emotional support.

Dorset has a higher rate of sexual offences than similar police force areas. Last year, there were a total of 632 sexual offences in Dorset – a 17 per cent drop on the previous year.

DRC’s helpline is manned by 28 volunteers, who can refer callers on to three full time independent sexual violence advisors giving practical support.

They can visit victims at home, keep in touch by text or email, attend court hearings and GUM clinics with them.

Manager Sharon Frame told the Daily Echo the biggest step was victims recognising they need help.

She said: “The problem is growing. We’ve had 24 counselling referrals in the last two months – 16 of them were red.

“It is much bigger than people realise, it’s horrible really.

“It’s the shame surrounding rape and the secrecy attached to it that needs to go.

“There are not many other crimes on such a scale that cannot talk about has such a lifelong effect on the victim.”

DRC is open to anyone in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset and is currently helping its first two male victims.

Victims are graded red, amber or green, with red including suicidal tendencies.

“Quite often at the helpline stage all the victims want is for someone to listen to them,” Sharon said.

“We do not have a time limit, which certain agencies do. Our support is ongoing, we don’t sign anybody off to say – you’re better now.

“The bottom line is to help clients move on with their lives wherever they want that to take them, to be able to deal with the trauma they are suffering and to conduct their lives in a happier way.”

Anyone who has been raped or sexually abused can call 01202 308855 in confidence.