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Christian organisation supporting victims of sexual assault says more help is needed for survivors

by Alex Collett

Victims of rape are still being asked to hand over their phones to police, and are being treated as if they themselves are the suspect, claim campaigners.

Ministers had pledged to overhaul the way the sexual offence is investigated, limiting the 'digital strip searches' to only necessary cases. 

Police forces have now been told to immediately stop collecting huge amounts of personal information on rape victims.

The data watchdog says officers are sometimes requesting intimate and sensitive data.

Bekkah Legg is from Restored, a network of churches standing against domestic abuse and providing a place of safety for survivors.

She told Premier Christian News that victims shouldn't have to prove their innocence.

She said: "The thing is, it's meant to be voluntary. 

"But often what happens is they want to take your phone to see what text messages you sent, and they're trying to anticipate what a defence might say.

"They might want to prove, in some way, that you've asked for it or that you've suggested that you are up for something that you were not. 

"They will suggest to you as a victim, if you don't hand over your phone, they might not better go forward with the case, because they can't gather enough evidence. 

"So because people are left feeling compelled to hand over their phones or to withdraw from the process altogether, which is what usually happens."

Bekkah feels there should be specially trained sexual assault officers, who are trained to respond in the best way and know how to interview how to be supportive.

She said: "There are specialist centres around the country called sark's, where actually you should get taken that are much more comfortable than going into a local police station, and much more gentle. 

"We don't make people prove that they've been physically assaulted that they've been burgled. 

"We don't demand their telephones, then to check whether or not they've ever lent somebody a key before. 

"Like we don't do those things. We take them at their word."

If you have been affected by this report or would like to speak to someone, you can call Samaritans on: 116123

Alternatively, you can call Restored on: Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

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