Volunteers are vitally important to this service

COMMENT: All agencies must to held to account for Anne Savidge’s tragic death

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Crime of any kind is a serious matter. So we do not seek to diminish the effect that different forms of offending have on individuals and society in general when we say that sexual crime is among the most heinous of all transgressions from decent behaviour.

The effect on its victims cannot simply be put into words, just as many of them find it too difficult or distressing to find a way of talking about a life-altering event or events. That is what makes the work of organisations such as Portsmouth area rape crisis service (Parcs) so important.

In its 30 years of existence, so many people have been helped by counsellors at the centre.

Although most of those helped have been women, men too have received valuable counselling after suffering sexual abuse.

One of the counselling volunteers is Fran O’Donnell, herself a victim of abuse as a child, who today courageously tells her story.

Tellingly, she highlights a major problem faced by the service when she says: ‘Although I knew what was happening was wrong, I was scared to death to say anything.’

For organisations such as Parcs, a major challenge remains encouraging people to come forward to talk about things that they might not know how to put into words.

Fran had the courage to seek help and comfort and now she is using her experience to help others.

For the past seven years, she has been a volunteer with the service.

Her work, and that of her colleagues, shows the important part that volunteers play in the service. Of course we need professionals to help victims of sexual crimes, but those who give of their time freely also have a crucial role to play.

For the past 30 years, Parcs has offered a service which we wish was not necessary but sadly is.

We hope that, by again highlighting its work, we will improve the chances of people contacting it to talk to counsellors like Fran.

Because they know that for everyone helped, there are more still not able to take that first step of getting in touch. The helpline is (023) 9266 9511 for women and (023) 9266 9516 for men.