'Valuable' support service for sexual assault survivors in Portsmouth to be extended

SUPPORT for survivors of sexual assault in Portsmouth is set to be extended, as the number of serious offences in the city has ‘drastically’ risen by almost 70 per cent.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 5:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2021, 5:46 pm
A sexual assault support service is set to be extended in Portsmouth

It comes as a report revealed 783 sex offences in Portsmouth were recorded by the police in 2019/20, and from 2014 to 2020 there was a 69 per cent increase in serious sexual assault.

The independent sexual violence advocate (ISVA) service works with people who have experienced rape and sexual assault and is now set to continue for years to come.

It works with people whether or not they report a crime to police.

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Domestic abuse survivor and campaigner from Portsmouth, Kirsty Mellor, welcomed the extension of the ISVA service

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Councillor Lee Hunt, Portsmouth’s community safety boss, said: ‘This is valuable support, and commissioning this in partnership across the Hampshire area improves accessibility. Victims in Portsmouth are better looked after by this joint commissioning approach.

‘Those supporting victims of sexual violence are concerned that the lockdown might be disguising the true extent of this crime. So it’s important that victims know they can contact services that can help them.’

According to a report by the council's head of children and families, there were an average of 149 ISVA service users in Portsmouth over the past three years.

Now Portsmouth City Council is due to re-tender the ISVA service until 2025, with an option to extend for another four years.

The council will also increase its spend on the scheme by another 50 per cent.

Kirsty Mellor, a domestic abuse survivor and campaigner from Portsmouth, added: ‘In recent years, the number of sexual offences has drastically risen.

‘When victims courageously come forward, it is essential they are met with acceptance.

‘Independent sexual violence advocates offer critical, impartial advice to those seeking help, ensuring to tailor their support to the complexities of each individual’s unique situation.

‘The work ISVAs do saves lives, this is why I wholeheartedly support the extension of ISVA provisions; and I am pleased to hear that Portsmouth City Council is supporting this.’

The proposed new ISVA contract will cost £310,800 per year with the annual contributions set as £15,000 from Portsmouth council, £30,000 from Southampton, £16,800 from Hampshire and £259,000 from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Cllr Hunt will make a decision on Portsmouth’s portion of funding during a virtual meeting on February 16.

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