An advocacy team employed by Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) will be on call 24 hours a day to offer support and guidance to people who report a serious sex crime.
The service, which launched on Monday, is being trialled as a pilot in the Greater Glasgow area, which includes East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire, over the next
During that time it will be evaluated, with the hope of eventually rolling it out nationally.
RCS and Police Scotland are leading the project, which is receiving a £150,000 funding boost from the Scottish Government.
Victims will be given emotional and practical support as well as guidance through the reporting process, which can be viewed as traumatic due to its intrusive nature.
Campaigners hope that the service will have a positive effect on people who have been subjected to rape and could help more victims come forward and report to police.
There were 1109 indecent and sexual assaults, including rapes, reported to police last year in Glasgow.
However, it is feared that more people are suffering and choosing not to come forward.
Eileen Maitland, RCS information and resource worker, said: “It’s an extension of our work to reduce the barriers to reporting rapes and sexual assaults.
“And it is a development that we hope is going to significantly improve the amount of people reporting. They will know that someone is going to be there to support them on their behalf.
“If people get to see that the process is not as a scary as it seems then we might find that more people will come forward.”
The pilot grew from talks between police in Glasgow and Rape Crisis.
Isabelle Kerr, manager of the Glasgow Rape Crisis centre, said: “This has been in the pipeline for a year and it came about through discussions between Rape Crisis Scotland and the then Strathclyde Police.
“The discussion was around providing advocates to support survivors of sexual offences, including rape, when they first report the crime to the police. At the moment there is no dedicated support there immediately for the survivor.”
Earlier this year when Police Scotland formed, Detective Superintendent Louise Raphael, of the force’s National Rape Task Force and RCS national co-ordinator Sandy Brindley began moving the project forward.
Ms Raphael said: “The police and other organisations have been working closely together for a number of years now.
“But we are continually trying to make sure that victims get the right level of support.
“Probably the most difficult time is when they first report to the police – they might have to give a lengthy statement, or be asked to go through a medical examination.
“We do look at how we talk to the individual and support them through the violence, but right from the offering we can now provide an on-call 24-hour cover.”
SHE continued: “At the point of first reporting, the individual will be asked if they would like an advocate to support them.”
A pool of nine trained advocates are in place at the Glasgow Rape Crisis centre, based in Bell Street, Merchant City, as well as a coordinator.
A member of staff from the team will be available to assist victims of rape within an hour of them reporting to police, 24 hours a day, any day of the year.
Ms Kerr said they expected the number of people on the team to rise as the project moved forward.
She added: “The aim is that the worker can refer people to other services too, like sexual assault referral clinic, the Archway.
“It is about being there for the person and explaining parts of the process. For example they might think police are asking prying or personal questions but they are doing that for a reason.”
Organisers were keen to launch the pilot, which is funded until March 2015, near to the busy festive season as a public reassurance message.
Ms Raphael said: “We want to get the message out that this service is on offer. This is a real step forward in support for survivors in what can sometimes be a very difficult process.”