Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the UK government said it was supporting the visit of Cypriot authorities to Glasgow to undertake training on best-practice in the handling of rape and serious sexual assault cases.

The visiting Cypriot officials are currently conducting a feasibility study into the creation of a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Cyprus, the British High Commission in Nicosia said in a statement.

Officials from the police, legal service, and health and welfare ministries, and Gesy will visit the Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis Centre (GCRCC) to tour their facilities and to discuss with the centre’s experts their development of survivor-centered emotional and therapeutic support for victims of rape and serious sexual assault.

The delegation will also meet with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (the Scottish prosecution service) and visit the Glasgow High Court to see their remote-evidence facility for witnesses who do not wish to testify in person.

The visit to Scotland is part of a programme of partnership between the UK and Cyprus on victim-handling and support. In October last year, experts from the GCRCC delivered a training workshop in Nicosia for local authorities which focused on communication skills needed in dealing with victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault.

Established in 1976, the GCRC was the first Rape Crisis Centre in Scotland and remains the longest operational Rape Crisis Centre in the UK, supporting 1,700 women and girls annually.

British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie said: “This is a really important collaboration between the UK and Cyprus, in an area of vital importance to people in both countries”.

He said the UK has been a pioneer in developing sexual assault referral centres as part of its efforts to support victims more effectively.

The Glasgow centre, he added, was recognised as a model of international best practice.

“I am sure that this visit will be of great value as Cyprus works to develop its own support for victims of rape and sexual assault,” Lillie said.

Dr Olga Kalakouta, Chief Health Officer at the health ministry said that cases of rape and sexual assault require sensitive handling and that Cyprus was in the process of developing victim-centered approaches, help from UK.

“We look forward to exchanging knowledge and experiences with our British colleagues to improve how survivors of such hideous crimes are treated fairly and empathetically within the Cypriot system,” she added.

Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis Director Claudia Macdonald said that sharing information and experience was important in developing approaches that put survivors at the heart of services, especially those as complex as the criminal justice system.

“More important though is the culture in which these services are delivered within. That’s where people’s understanding of trauma and its impact on survivors must be as advanced and as empathetic as possible to truly put survivors needs first in any service, at home and internationally,” she added.