NHS England has announced that victims of sexual assault will receive a lifetime of mental health care to help cope with trauma

The announcement comes as part of a five-year strategy for better care for sexual abuse and assault victims across England.

As well as a lifetime of mental health care, the plan includes the integration of Sexual Assault Referral Centres across community services, and improved support for male victims.

Read Phil's story: Fighting For The Rights of Male Abuse Victims

The announcement comes after the Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities, Jackie Doyle-Price visited senior NHS staff at one of London’s leading assault referral centres, The Haven. She said: “It is my priority that we have the best possible support available for survivors.

“NHS England’s new sexual assault strategy and the commitment within it to provide care that is better signposted, more joined up and long-lasting is essential so that all survivors can access the support they need for as long as they need it.

“The more confident survivors are that they will get the right care and treatment, the better,” she said.

On visiting the centre, NHS England Director of Sexual Assault Services, Kate Davies said: “The physical and emotional impact of sexual crimes lasts a lifetime, so it’s important that survivors can get the help they need, whenever they need it.

“Acoss England, the NHS is expanding care for people with mental ill health, whatever their condition, and our new guarantee of personal, joined-up and life-long care for those who have suffered sexual assault and abuse, will build on excellent progress to address a big gap in care.”

What's included in the strategy?

The NHS have said that the strategy will mean a significant improvement of sexual assault and abuse health services, including:

  • Easier access to treatment centres for combined physical and mental health treatment.
  • A commitment that any victim and survivor of sexual assault or abuse will get trauma care throughout their lifetime.
  • Support and guidance for all community services to join up care and prevent victims falling through the gaps between organisations.
  • Better access to information for the public on available services, how to access care and guidance to understand the long term impact of trauma.

Developed with the help of sexual assault survivors, alongside Government and charities, the strategy has been backed by investment of £4 million per year until 2020/21.

Responding to the announcement, Happiful reader Lynn says: “The fact that the NHS recognises victims of sexual assault or abuse may need continuing mental health care throughout their lifetimes because of the trauma they suffered is a massive step in the right direction. As a survivor of rape, I know the traumatic after-effects of rape, sexual abuse and assault can last a lifetime.

“Many survivors are ashamed to admit they are still affected; access to mental health treatment is not only intrinsically good, but also legitimises what many survivors like me who may feel embarrassed to admit they are still struggling with trauma-related mental health issues, even 20-some years after the attack.”

“This is something to be really proud of as a country that we have not just paid lip service to the survivors, but will actually care for them physically and mentally. This initiative will surely help survivors throughout their entire recovery and not just leave them to cope alone,” says Lynn.

If you have been affected by the topics raised in this article, know that you are not alone. You can contact Rape Crisis helpline on freephone 0808 802 9999 or find your nearest Rape Crisis services here. Alternatively you can speak to the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

To learn more about the benefits of counselling and to find a professional near you, visit Counselling Directory.