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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Conference marks 10 years of Northern Ireland’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre

Maura Dargan, Northern Trust Children and Young People Division Director, Alison Howard, Lead Nurse at The Rowan, Joanna Brown, Head of Service, Robin Swann,Health Minister, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director at The Rowan, Jennifer Welsh, Northern Trust Chief Executive, Dr Alison Livingstone, Paediatrics Clinical Lead at The Rowan, Detective Chief Superintendent Lindsay Fisher and Tracy Magill, Assistant Director, Northern Trust Children and Young People Division Assistant Director.

Pictured above are Maura Dargan, Northern Trust Children and Young People Division Director, Alison Howard, Lead Nurse at The Rowan, Joanna Brown, Head of Service, Robin Swann,Health Minister, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director at The Rowan, Jennifer Welsh, Northern Trust Chief Executive, Dr Alison Livingstone, Paediatrics Clinical Lead at The Rowan, Detective Chief Superintendent Lindsay Fisher and Tracy Magill, Assistant Director, Northern Trust Children and Young People Division Assistant Director.


Northern Ireland’s only dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre has marked its 10th anniversary with a special conference.


The Rowan, located at Antrim Area Hospital, has helped nearly 900 people each year since its doors first opened in June 2013.


Coinciding with Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the event provided an opportunity to reflect on progress over the last 10 years and discuss what further developments and legislative provisions are required to meet the needs of sexual violence victims.



With over 100 delegates from a wide range of disciplines in attendance, the conference opened with an address from Health Minister Robin Swann, who commented on the Centre’s contribution to tackling sexual violence:


“I want to pay tribute to the entire team at the Rowan for the support and care that they have provided over the last 10 years.


“While we have made considerable progress over the past decade, we know there is more to do. The current Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy has been in place for the last eight years and we are now working on its successor. The new strategy is heavily influenced by what those with lived experience have told us.



“The vision is that Northern Ireland becomes a place where domestic and sexual abuse are not tolerated. It will require partnership and collaboration across departments and across sectors, and I recognise the enormity of the challenges we face, but I am convinced that it is achievable.”


Alongside the Health Minister, the event also featured a range of keynote speakers including Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Lady Chief Justice, The Right Honourable Dame Siobhan Keegan, Victims Commissioner Designate, Geraldine Hanna, former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir John Gillen, and Dr Eithne Dowds from Queen’s University, Belfast.


The Rowan, Antrim

The Rowan, Antrim


Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director at The Rowan, said:


“We are delighted to mark The Rowan’s 10 years of service to victims of sexual violence in Northern Ireland, while having the opportunity to focus on future developments.


“Our specially trained team of doctors and nurses remain committed to providing a responsive, compassionate and high quality service to all victims of sexual violence.”



Partnership working


Reflecting on The Rowan’s successful partnership with the PSNI, Detective Chief Superintendent Lindsay Fisher, said:


“Sexual violence and abuse can happen to anyone – it doesn’t matter what age, gender, race or sexuality. The impact these crimes can have is often extreme and can have a ricochet effect throughout our communities.


“Since The Rowan first opened its doors to survivors ten years ago, we have supported them as key partners. The service it offers is invaluable and the forensic evidence they help us gather in such a sensitive and respectful way has helped us achieve justice for so many.



“The experience of being a survivor of a sexual crime is a very difficult one. However, the Rowan Centre has, and will, continue to provide a complete and co-ordinated package of care to promote recovery, wellbeing and greatly enhance our robust investigative process.”


Services at The Rowan are provided by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses who are committed to providing a trauma-informed approach to a victim-led service.


They offer acute and non-acute forensic medical examinations, joint paediatric examinations, sexual health screening, treatment and advice, to men, children and young people who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, including historic cases.

You do not need to make a report to police, but you will receive specific support if you decide to do this at a later date.



The Rowan can be contacted directly 24/7, 365 days a year by ringing 0800 389 4424 or go to www.therowan.net for further information.

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