VICTIMS of rape and sexual assault in York and North Yorkshire are being given a new support system with the launch of a dedicated helpline.

From Saturday, a new free and confidential service – Rape Support Line – will be available to help support those who have fallen prey to sex attackers across the county.

Sarah Hill, director of Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) in North Yorkshire, said rape and serious sexual assault is far more common than most people realise, with up to 25 per cent of women and four per cent of men having been raped or seriously sexually assaulted.

She said: “Many people never report or seek help for what has happened even though the effects of rape can be long-lasting and debilitating. “At the moment there are some excellent specialist services in York and North Yorkshire, but depending on where you live you may not be able to access this support.

“This line will provide a free, confidential service that covers the whole county and is also able to refer on to local services.

“I would urge anyone who needs support not to suffer in silence and to give the line a call.”

Superintendent Lewis Raw, of North Yorkshire Police welcomed the launch of the Rape Support line, saying: “It provides support and help to victims who may feel vulnerable and in need of help.

“It allows victims of sexual assault to obtain information and advice on a confidential basis as well as access to services.”

The new Rape Support Line is a free phone number run by specially trained staff offering advice, telephone support and information to adults aged 16 and over.

The line will be run by IDAS – an organisation which also provides refuge space and support to victims of domestic violence and will boost the existing specialist and counselling services available in York and North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Police has also recently improved its existing centre in the Bishopthorpe area of York so it meets some of the requirements of a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

Mandy Alderson of Survive, which offers a lifeline for people who have fallen prey to sex attackers, welcomed the new helpline, saying: “‘Rape has a devastating impact on people’s lives.

“The Rape Support Line will increase the possibility of people in North Yorkshire getting the support and information they need when they most need it.’ The line is available on 0300 111 0777 on Tuesday and Thursdays from 5pm until 7pm and Saturday from 10am until 12pm. For more information visit