A Larbert resource where victims ofsex attack can hope to find dignity

A discreet new facility in the grounds of a Larbert hospital could serve as the blueprint for a revolution in the way Scotland treats victims of sexual assault.

That is the vision of a progressive future some feel could be turned into reality by the example shown at the Meadows in the grounds of Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley hopes it will end what she sees as a postcode lottery on how victims are treated.

Welcoming the new development, she said: “It just goes to show what can be achieved with partnership working, imagination and a determination to meet survivors needs.

“It’s especially good to see the provision for local Rape Crisis services on site, allowing for the different specialisms necessary following sexual violence to come together and work together to minimise the trauma experienced following sexual violence.

“At the moment the response that survivors of sexual violence can expect to receive changes by postcode, and this is an issue far too important to leave to chance. The Meadow Centre is a great example of leadership and we hope that others follow suit quickly, to make sure that survivors in Scotland get the high-quality, practical, consistent and trauma-informed support that they need and deserve.”

The centre will aim to provide a comprehensive range of services and support for adults and children who have suffered rape, sexual assault or gender-based violence, including victims of historic sexual abuse.

Crucially, it will allow victims to avoid traumatic visits to police stations, and will allow them effective anonymity. There’s also a separate area for children where specially trained staff can carry out interviews and gather video evidence. NHS staff will be based within the centre to provide support and access to a wider range of health services.

Voluntary organisations such as Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland will have space where they will be able to provide advice and counselling in a quiet and confidential setting.

Just how influential the Meadows could be for future policy across Scotland remains to be seen.

But both health secretary Jeane Freeman and Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood see the centre as an important step forward. Ms Freeman said: “We want to encourage victims of rape or sexual assault to feel able to come forward and it is vital they are able to access the right support when they need it.

“That’s why have launched a consultation to strengthen delivery of healthcare and forensic medical services so we increase our understanding of what is needed.”

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, says the move is in tune with the Force’s aim to provide the highest levels of support, sensitivity and professionalism to victims.”

NHS Forth Valley’s chief executive, Cathie Cowan, said: “It is the culmination of many months of detailed planning and consultation with a wide range of partners”.