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DPCC visits sexual and domestic abuse support services 

DPCC Claire Hiscott (right) and Nicola Shannon, SARC Service Manager

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (DPCC) Claire Hiscott has early this week visited sexual and domestic abuse support services in Bristol as part of her engagement activities with services and communities across the Avon and Somerset area.

The Bridge 

 Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (DPCC) Claire Hiscott visited the Bridge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Bristol. 

 The aim of the visit was for the DPCC to view the premises where victims of sexual assault and rape receive support. And discuss how the service and service users feel the impact of police Operation Bluestone– a specialist approach to rape and sexual offence investigations.  

The DPCC met with Nicola Shannon, the SARC Service Manager, who talked passionately about the service, how they include the voice of service users to shape the service and their work with other service providers, including the police, mental health services, and their aspirations on service development. Shannon says they continue to innovate and develop the service to maintain its status as one of  the best SARC in the country. 

Part of their future, the Bridge are a key delivery partners for NHSE’s Enhanced Mental Health Pathfinder funding which is working to improve the way services respond in a more trauma informed way to the needs of ‘high impact users’ whose experience of sexual trauma has led to a revolving door engagement with several health, social care and criminal justice agencies rather than sustained wellbeing 

The Bridge offers medical care, emotional and psychological support, and practical help to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted: 

  • An adult or child, living in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset or Somerset.
  • A child living in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, or Swindon

NHS England Health and Justice Southwest is the lead commissioner for the Avon and Somerset SARC, with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Constabulary co-commissioners funding part of the core service and forensic medical examiners, respectively. 

The Bridge provides offer medical care, emotional and psychological support, and practical help to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted.  For more information about their work Bridge see this animation. 

Commenting on the visit, DPCC Claire Hiscott says: “No one ever wants to imagine a situation in which they or a loved one needs a sexual assault referral centre, but the sad truth is that this crucial service is needed by many.

“For those who need our local SARC, the Bridge,  I take heart in the fact that they will be met with care, compassion, and professionalism in a place where they can feel safe. The services here form an essential step on the path to healing that victims and survivors deserve, and it is a privilege to be able to support their work.”


Following this, the DPCC visited Opoka, a Bristol based specialist Domestic Violence service for Polish women and children in the UK.  

The DPCC meet with Aneta Mackell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Opoka, team members and some of the Charity’s trustees to find out more about the life changing work the organisation does, 

Opoka has a bi-lingual team that provides one-to-one support and a national helpline. The charity supports Polish women and their children to be able to engage support services, protective systems, and to access mental health and wellbeing support. Mrs Mackell says the charity has limited resources despite high demand for service.  Discussion also focussed on the charity’s working relationship with other agencies including the police. 

After visiting Opoka, the DPCC Claire Hiscott said, “We all know that reaching out for support can be hard, but if English isn’t your first language, it can seem impossible. This is why organizations like OPOKA are a lifeline for many women and their children. I was impressed by the support services they provide that focus on helping women feel safe, protected, and empowered to reclaim their lives.”

DPCC Claire Hiscott at Opoka charity