The Health Minister, Justice Minister and Chief Constable have officially launched the Rowan – Northern Ireland’s only regional Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

The Rowan is a regional facility that offers a range of services and support to anyone who has been sexually abused, assaulted or raped, whether this happened recently or in the past. The service is now open to those who wish to self-refer directly by calling 0800 389 4424.

Speaking at the launch, Health Minister Edwin Poots said:

“Sexual violence and abuse have a devastating impact on victims and their families. Our collective aim should be to keep all children and adults safe from harm and to prevent them being abused. However, we sadly cannot prevent it all the time and it is vital that when it happens, we have services in place to help them deal with, and hopefully overcome, their experience. The Rowan is a tremendous facility that provides these services in a safe, secure and confidential environment. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year and I would urge anyone – man woman or child – who is or has been the victim of sexual abuse to come forward and seek help.”

Justice Minister David Ford said:

“The establishment of the Rowan, Northern Ireland’s regional sexual assault referral centre (SARC), is a significant step forward in supporting all victims of sexual violence and abuse. The housing of such specialist medical and forensic services under one roof, with the assistance from other statutory and voluntary organisations, will improve the standards of care and support available to victims at what is understandably a very difficult, unsettling and emotional time. Importantly, along with being a safe and caring environment, a key element of the Rowan will be the ability to obtain significant and timely evidence aimed at bringing the perpetrators of these dreadful crimes to justice. I would sincerely like to thank those involved in this project for their hard work and dedication and in bringing this much needed centre of excellence to fruition.”

The range of services offered at the Rowan includes:

  • Forensic medical examination by a specially trained doctor. Forensic evidence can be stored until the individual makes a decision whether or not they wish to report to the Police;
  • Emergency contraception;
  • A course of treatment to help prevent the onset of HIV in those who are at risk (this must be administered within 72 hours of the assault);
  • Screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections;
  • Emotional support;
  • Support in making a report to the Police;
  • Referral on to counselling and/or other appropriate support services;
  • Follow-up support; and
  • A 24 hour advice and information line 0800 389 4424.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott commended the new state of the art facility stating: “This world class centre will provide a one-stop location for all victims who have experienced sexual assault, whether recently or in the past, through self-referral, third party referral or through our officers. The experience of being a victim of any type of crime is a very difficult one. However, the Rowan Centre will provide a complete and co-ordinated package of care to promote recovery and wellbeing and greatly enhance the investigative process.”

Margaret O’Hagan, Interim Director for Acute Services for the Northern Trust, said:

“We’re pleased to officially open the Rowan which is situated in the grounds of Antrim Area Hospital. The Rowan supports victims of sexual assault and abuse referred by the PSNI and from today extends that service to take calls directly from victims. The Rowan is a purpose-built facility with dedicated healthcare staff who work collaboratively with PSNI to provide physical, psychological and social care in a confidential and supportive environment.”

More information on The Rowan is available from or

If you have been affected by sexual violence and wish to speak to someone in confidence, the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline is open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Call 0808 802 1414, email or text 07797 805 839 – all calls are free from mobile and land line and a translation service is available.

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