A WINCHESTER sex abuse counselling centre has reported a 20 per cent rise in demand for its services following Operation Yewtree.

The Rape And Sexual Abuse Counselling service (RASAC) reported calls had increased by a fifth following the string of high-profile court cases that have hit the headlines.

The City Road-based centre said it has been forced to launch two new hotlines to deal with the rise and seek out more volunteers.

Manager Allison Noel said: “Recent publicity surrounding this investigation has had a definite impact with a 20 per cent increase in the demand for counselling services across the country. Our service in Hampshire has seen a similar increase and we’ve been shocked to find that 94 per cent of our clients suffered their first sexual abuse as a child and that most waited decades before seeking help - some even up to 40 years.

“We want people to know that they will be believed and that there is help available to help them cope and recover from their experiences. We would encourage anyone who is concerned about childhood sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment or any unwanted sexual encounter to phone our helpline support service. Rape and sexual abuse can happen to anyone but are really difficult subjects to talk about - all our helpline support volunteers are highly trained in helping survivors to access the help they need.”

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimated that last year over 400,000 females and over 70,000 males said they had been a victim of a sexual offence and that over 90 per cent knew the perpetrator.

Only 15 per cent of female victims of the most serious sexual offences said they had reported the incident to the police.

Ms Noel added: “We felt this gave us an opportunity to change the helpline numbers to ones that are more memorable, to encourage more to come forward for help.

“We are also looking to increase funding opportunities to ensure we are best placed to meet this increase in demand and help victims of sexual crime both cope and recover from their experiences. We are keen to work with other agencies and ensure that awareness is raised of all the help and support available.”

The new numbers – 01962 868688 and 01962 864433 – are now live.