A charity which helps victims of rape and sexual abuse across North Wales has been backed to the tune of more than £10,000 by a policing chief to avert a crisis in its funding.

The Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) picked up the Victims Champion Award from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones at a glittering ceremony at the Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon.

It is one of his Community Awards, presented every year, to people and organisations who have made a difference to the lives of their fellow citizens in North Wales.

RASASC, formerly the Rape Crisis Line and now based at Parc Menai on the outskirts of Bangor, has been headed by its director, Jane Ruthe, for 15 years and she braved the pain of a recent knee replacement operation to help pick up the award.

Presenting the award Mr Jones said: “If RASASC wasn’t there, an awful lot more people would be seeking support from statutory services and it is time these services recognised the good work being done by the Centre.

“It greatly reduces the demands on the Health Service in particular and I believe these services should play their part in its funding.

“I have paid in over £10,000 to clear a backlog of cases which would otherwise have been suffering on waiting lists for these services because unless we address the underlying causes of these problems they will come out as symptoms.

“This award strikes at the heart of my police and crime priorities because it is all about the support and protection of the victims of crime.

“We want the most vulnerable people and the most vulnerable victims to have access to the help they need and RASASC is a great example of an organisation that does just that.

“It has been wonderfully led by the dedicated Jane Ruthe and has helped so many people deal with the mental and physical problems this abuse causes.”

Fflur Emlyn, assistant manager at the Centre, was quick to praise the support given to the centre by the Police and Crime Commissioner: “He is helping us seek sustainable long-term funding,” she said.

“He gave us a substantial amount of money to reduce our waiting list. We still have a waiting list, but it’s now a quarter the length it used to be.”

She added: “Like all of us, Jane was delighted by the award. To be recognised in this way is the topping on the cake.

“We’re all thrilled to receive this award. It shows we are doing good work. All in all it was a lovely occasion.”

The centre covers the whole of North Wales, taking in the counties of Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, the isle of Anglesey, and Wrexham, and offers its therapy services free of charge to men, women and children from the age of three.

Formerly based in Caernarfon town centre, it switched to Parc Menai early last year after the Welsh Government provided funding to make the move possible.

“The Welsh Government provided the funding in February 2017 and we actually moved to Parc Menai in late March 2017,” said Fflur.

“But the official opening wasn’t until February 9 2018 in a ceremony performed by Arfon Jones.

“We also have outreach centres in rented private rooms in Holyhead and Colwyn Bay. We rent from the likes of Rhyl Fire Station, and we have rooms in Wrexham and Porthmadog too so no one has far to travel.”

Fflur said the centre and its outreach bases offer support to men and women who have experienced any form of sexual violence, including recent or historic rape and child sexual abuse.

“Our centre at Parc Menai has four counselling rooms, including one equipped with play therapy equipment for children,” she said. “There’s also a training room, volunteer room and office space.

“From April 1 2017 to March 31 2018, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre services in North Wales were used by 452 people made up of 392 women and 60 men.

“We also deal with children from the age of three. We have a special room with easy access.”

Fflur said referral rates have shot up in recent years as a direct result of increased publicity concerning rape and historic sexual abuse involved in the Jimmy Savile scandal and the more recent revelations about Football Academies at the likes of Manchester City and Crewe.

“In North Wales there has been an investigation into historic sexual abuse at care homes and publicity over this could well be reflected in the increasing referral rates,” said Fflur.

“Some of the cases we deal with are very upsetting. They can break your heart, but we have to put the emphasis on the fact that there is life and hope after someone has been raped or sexually abused.”

The RASASC has four full-time members of staff and 41 volunteer counsellors and support staff. “We’re proud that no one seeking our help is ever turned away,” said Fflur.

The award citation said the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in North Wales is a great example of an organisation specifically designed to help victims of crime.

It provides independent specialist support to enable people to work through their experience of rape and sexual assault and it has a strong and dedicated workforce of fully trained volunteers integral to service provision.

A registered charity founded in 1983 as the Rape Crisis Line, it has transformed into the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre North Wales thanks to the determination of Jane Ruthe, the citation added.

At the official opening on February 9, Jane told how one lady in her 80s said she had been raped when she was in her late teens.

She never phoned again and did not come in, but said she did not want to die without having told someone.