Caring for victims of sex assault and abuse

As she opens the Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre Annual Conference, Kate Davies details the work being done to improve care and support:

Sexual assault and abuse are two of the most serious and damaging crimes in our society.

Yet it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of incidents are unreported and as few as 28 per cent of victims make a complaint to the police. Furthermore, over a third of rape victims and half of female victims of other sexual offences are under 16.

Whilst for many these may be merely facts and figures, for others these are an horrific reality – a reality which I have learnt about from the brave victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse who have come forward to help NHS England develop the Strategic direction for sexual assault and abuse services.

This is a landmark document, setting out a vision to help improve health service provision and care for those who have suffered sexual assault and abuse.

This follows months of engaging and working with a wide range of organisations, the victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse and those who support them, to co-develop a framework of guidance to ensure appropriate and timely access to lifelong care.

Focused around six key priorities, the strategy looks at how services need to evolve to ensure that as much as possible can be done to encourage and empower the victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse to seek help, whilst protecting and supporting them now and in years to come.

Although often seen as a difficult subject to approach, I have been overwhelmed by the willingness of people to share their horrendous experiences, and humbled by their determination to make things better so others will not have to suffer as they have.

It is not acceptable that many victims and survivors wait a long time for help or are unaware of what services are available to provide them with much needed care and support.  This can lead to feelings of neglect and despair, which in some cases are further exacerbated by their needs being poorly recognised when they do finally receive support.

Whilst there are some fantastic examples of services for victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse taking positive steps to work collaboratively and improve quality, there is still more to do. Every organisation involved in the delivery of sexual assault and abuse services has a responsibility to help stop these crimes from happening.  Together, we need to ensure that good practice is shared and a cycle of continuous improvement is embedded, so that service delivery is consistent, variation reduced and ultimately service user experience and health and social outcomes improved.

The priorities set out in the Strategic direction provide us with a framework to help achieve this in terms of strengthening our approach to prevention; promoting safeguarding and the safety, protection and welfare of victims and survivors; involving them in the development and improvement of services; introducing consistent quality standards; driving collaboration and reducing fragmentation; and ensuring the workforce is appropriately trained.  Some of this is already taking place, whilst others need progressing in order to make our vision a reality.

This means improving access to better trauma informed care and support throughout their lifetime, particularly when disclosing and in crisis; being protected to help ensure their ongoing safety and reduce the risk of future re-victimisation; receiving dedicated, high quality and joined up care and support from a range of organisations; getting support and treatment to help them heal and rebuild their lives from sexual assault and abuse experts; and having access to appropriate information on which services are available now and throughout their lifetime.

Our strategy is only a first step, but it’s a crucial development, which we hope will ensure that we are able to offer much stronger and sustainable services for anyone who has suffered sexual assault and abuse, and improve their experience and health and social outcomes now and in years to come.

Kate Davies

Kate Davies CBE, Director of Health and Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Services Commissioning, NHS England.

Kate is the national director for healthcare services across England for Armed Forces serving personnel, veterans and their families; sexual assault referral centres (SARCs); and prisons, immigration removal centres and secure children’s homes and training centres. Her national role is to assure high quality, consistent and sustained services with a strong focus on health inequalities and outcomes for patients and their families.

Kate has developed and led national partnership agreements with the Ministry of Defence for Armed Forces commissioning, the Ministry of Justice for prisons and the children and young people secure estate and the Home Office for immigration removal centres. These agreements focus on core objectives and outcomes across Government for key patient areas that can only be delivered in partnership.

From a health and justice perspective, she has led the development of the national Liaison & Diversion Programme and Street Triage, the roll out of community sentence treatment requirements and the launch of RECONNECT to support prison leavers transition to community health and wellbeing services. Kate has facilitated the roll-out of increased provision for survivors of sexual violence, the launch of the Strategic Direction for Sexual Assault and Abuse Services and the development of enhanced sexual assault and abuse pathfinder services for individuals with complex trauma mental health needs.

Prior to her current role, Kate worked in a range of senior positions, including the Executive Lead for Prison, Detainee and SARCs Healthcare Commissioning for East Midlands; the strategic director of the award-winning Nottinghamshire County Drug and Alcohol Action Team, where she co-ordinated and delivered the Government’s National Drug Strategy; and the Director of Black and Ethnic Minority Community Engagement at the University of Central Lancashire, International School for Communities Rights and Inclusion. This follows her early career, when she worked as a probation office in the probation service.

In addition, Kate has been a Non-Executive Director on the National Treatment Agency Board and a member of the Government’s independent Board for the Prison Drug Treatment Strategy Patel Review, which implemented the Substance Treatment Service and strategy and delivery across England. She has also been an Ambassador for Diversity in Public Appointments for the Government Public Appointments Commission.

Kate’s strong leadership style and commitment to lived experience, co-production and addressing health inequalities, has led to her being awarded an OBE in 2009 for services for disadvantaged communities and a CBE in 2018, for her work to improve services for some of the most vulnerable groups. She is also an Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University in recognition of her commitment to health and social equality.


  1. Esther Young says:

    Hello, may I have an address for Kate Davies? I have written a letter of which Kate Davies is one of the addressees regarding accessing help for my husband after his recent disclosure of severe childhood trauma.

    Kind regards,


  2. Dr Susy Ridout says:

    Hi, I would like an email/phone contact for Kate Davis please. I am interested in involvement in work in this area and would like to talk to her about this.

  3. GRAHAM MILLER says:

    Would like a contact address or email for Kate Davis please