Sexual Offences Investigation Team supports 1500 victims in just one year
A new team of Sussex Police officers and staff, the Sexual Offences Investigation Team (SOIT), has already supported 1500 victims of rape and other serious sexual assaults in just one year since it’s inception.
The SOIT team has been the first such unit in the country to include police staff, including newcomers to the force, as well as police officers. The police staff have a diverse background – including in domestic abuse casework, victim support services, crime scene investigation or broader investigation experience. All have brought valuable experience to this new role.
Previously Sussex Police had a group of Sexual Offence Liaison Officers who provided this support to victims, but in addition to their regular police duties. Officers and staff across the force had already been able to provide this type of support service but the 22 SOITs are the first full-time dedicated team to do so, working alongside specially trained investigators in Sussex Police’s Specialist Investigation Units (SIUs). The SIUs and SOITs are based alongside each other in Littlehampton, Crawley, Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings.
The team members act as a central point of contact for victims and are on hand to support victims throughout a criminal investigation from initial reporting through to trial.
See this interview with SOIT officer Ray Dalmon, talking about the first year of operation and the work done to support victims and survivors.
Detective Chief Inspector Till Sanderson, force lead on rape and serious sexual offence investigation, said: “The introduction of SOITs has improved the service Sussex Police provides to victims of rape and serious sexual assaults, and has helped our specialist investigators to conduct high quality investigations in the knowledge that the victims receive the level of care, support and information they need. The number of incidents they have responded to and service they have given to victims is testimony to their value."
SOITs go through a rigorous recruitment and training process, including training in criminal law, responding to incidents of serious sexual offending, how best to elicit information from victims to help investigating officers, how to support the victims throughout an investigation, liaising with external support services and agencies, as well as completing including attachments to police response and investigations teams, the force contact centre, and courts. They also made links with partner agencies to develop working relationships.
The introduction of the team was an extra area of investment for Sussex Police and was financed by a rise in the police precept proportion of council tax, secured by Katy Bourne, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.
Assistant Chief Constable Julia Chapman said: "It is vital for to have these dedicated resources to provide an enhanced service to victims of such serious crimes. The SOIT officers focus completely on the victims, and we encourage people to come forward and report sexual offences to us in the knowledge they will receive that specialist care and attention throughout the investigation process."
PCC Katy Bourne said: "Sexual abuse of any kind often has a significant and long-lasting impact on those who experience it. With reports rising, it is increasingly important to ensure that those who bravely come forward receive the support they deserve.
“I’m pleased to see that these specially trained officers have already performed a vital role in case processing, supporting investigation and providing support directly to so many victims of serious sexual assault.
“All victims tell me that what matters most to them is being kept informed and the SOITs provide a constant point of contact for some of our most vulnerable. This is crucial and can help the police build a more robust case.
“I have also recently uplifted the funding I provide to victim support services in Sussex who work closely with this team to help victims cope with their experience and navigate the often complex criminal justice system.”
Helen Race of the Sussex-based Survivors' Network said: "Over the past year we have worked closely with our colleagues at Sussex Police to help ensure a solid partnership between our services, whilst retaining our independence, and have created smooth pathways of support for people affected by sexual violence and/or abuse. It has been great to see the dedication and commitment of the SOIT team in this work, and the positive impact of these roles for survivors."
You can find more information about specific support available for victims of rape and serious sexual assault on the Sussex Police website.