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General Election 2024: our demands

1 in 4 women in England and Wales have experienced rape or sexual assault as an adult. That's more than 6.5 million women in total – more people than the entire population of Scotland.

But not only is sexual violence and abuse extremely common, it's also extremely harmful and expensive to the state.

That's why, this election, we're calling on all political parties to make tackling sexual violence and abuse a priority.

What we want to see from the next government

There's so much that needs to be done to tackle sexual violence against women and girls in our society.

However, the most urgent issue for us right now is the lack of commitment from all political parties to continue key funding for Rape Crisis services beyond 2025.

Keep reading for more information about this, as well as our other demands for funding and commissioning, criminal justice, healthcare, education and support for migrant survivors.

Sign our petition to save Rape Crisis funding
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Funding and commissioning

➡️ Commit to recommissioning the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund

We believe that all victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse deserve specialist support services, such as Rape Crisis counselling and advocacy.

Right now, there are around 14,000 people waiting to access Rape Crisis services across England and Wales. But, despite this, there has been no official commitment from any political party to extend the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund beyond March 2025 – leaving many Rape Crisis centres on a cliff-edge.

And the threat is all too real. Only very recently, one of our member centres had to make the painful decision to close due to funding uncertainties. And many more are considering their futures.

Sign our petition to save Rape Crisis funding

Why is the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund so important?

The Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund is the only ring-fenced government funding for sexual violence and abuse services. It makes up a core part of the funding for Rape Crisis centres across the country.

The image shows an adult holding hands with a small child. We can't see anything other than their hands.

➡️ Guarantee specialist therapeutic support for all children who have experienced rape and/or sexual abuse

Political parties must commit to making sure that all child victims and survivors have timely access to fully funded, specialist therapeutic support – as per the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

Such support can only be provided by specialist and quality-assured services such as Rape Crisis services, rather than generic health providers.

Equally, the health sector should be involved in ensuring that appropriate pathways are in place for all child survivors, regardless of where they live, their age or experience.

Criminal justice

➡️ Establish a national model of independent legal advocacy for survivors

All survivors of sexual violence and abuse should be able to access independent legal advocacy and representation to support them through the criminal justice system – a system that retraumatises many survivors.

59% of adult rape survivors are currently withdrawing from investigations before charges have been made.

But support from an independent legal advocate could help survivors to continue through the criminal justice process (if that is something they want).

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➡️ Pilot judge-only trials to address the Crown Court backlog and delays

Our 2023 Breaking Point report revealed how delays in the Crown Court system are having a deeply traumatic impact on survivors – which is causing many to withdraw from the process.

And yet the situation is only getting worse. According to the latest figures:

  • 10,141 sexual offence cases are waiting to go to court. Not only is this a record high, but it's a 21% increase on the year before and a 196% increase on 2019.
  • 19% of adult rape cases are rearranged on the day of trial, with issues such as barrister unavailability and over-listing frequently cited as the cause.
  • Adult rape cases are taking an average of 2 years to complete in court – with many taking far longer.

We want the next government to launch a pilot of rape and sexual abuse trials without juries as an emergency measure. This would increase efficiency and helped to reduce the huge backlog of cases that are waiting to be heard.

Join our campaign to cut court waiting times
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➡️ Expand the Rape Review to include the post-charge phase of the criminal justice process

The government’s End-to-End Rape Review – and the accompanying work of Operation Soteria – was not actually end-to-end.

Why? Because it failed to review what happens to survivors of sexual violence and abuse once a case reaches court. Meaning it missed out on a huge part of the criminal justice process – and one that is causing survivors significant harm.

In order to address issues such as the Crown Court backlog and the appalling treatment of survivors during cross examination, parties must also commit to a review of the work of His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, the judiciary and the criminal legal profession.


➡️ Launch a public inquiry into sexual safety on mental health wards

Sexual violence and abuse is happening within mental health wards on a significant scale – investigative journalists revealed earlier this year that there had been 500 allegations of sexual assault and rape in mixed-gender NHS England psychiatric inpatient settings, across more than 20 trusts.

This issue must be properly investigated and solutions found. As part of this, survivors must have the opportunity to give evidence safely and through official routes.

➡️ Launch a minister-led end-to-end review and action plan to address sexual violence and abuse within the healthcare system

Political will and ministerial leadership are urgently needed to tackle the epidemic levels of sexual violence and abuse in the healthcare system.

Ministerial leadership must bring together inspectorates, health trusts, integrated health boards, local authorities and specialist sexual violence and abuse service providers, such as Rape Crisis centres.

No politician should see sexual violence and abuse as inevitable, acceptable or low priority.

Side shot of a young woman sitting at a desk in school looking ahead of her. Her pencil case and two academic books are also on the desk.


➡️ Support schools and colleges with clear guidance for cases of sexual violence or abuse between students

The next government must commit to providing teachers and staff with robust guidance and training on how to carry out Article 3 safeguarding investigations into cases of sexual violence and abuse.

Such investigations should be independent of any criminal investigation. At present, however, schools and colleges are unclear about their responsibilities if there is no live criminal investigation.

➡️ Invest in specialist prevention programmes in all schools and higher education settings

Such programmes are urgently needed for responding to the widespread sexual violence and abuse in schools and higher education.

Specialist Rape Crisis services should receive funding to:

  • Provide training, consultancy and other support to staff and students.
  • Ensure the delivery of high-quality and relevant relationships, sex and health education.

Support for migrant survivors

➡️ Establish safe reporting mechanisms

The Home Office must establish clear statutory separation (a so-called 'firewall') between any form of immigration enforcement and the police.

This would help to make sure that migrant survivors of sexual violence and abuse can safely report violence, access support and seek justice without fear.

➡️ Launch an independent review of the Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contracts (AASC)

We're deeply concerned about the safety of women in Home Office-provided asylum accommodation – many of whom have already experienced sexual violence and abuse back home.

This accommodation is contracted out to private companies through the government's Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contracts (AASC). And so we urgently call on the next Home Secretary to commission an independent review of the management and delivery of all AASC services.

This review must look at complaints and safe-guarding training, practices and procedures within asylum accommodation, as well as the use of contingency asylum accommodation to house women and children.

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Have you signed our petition to save Rape Crisis centres from a funding crisis?

Sign it now

Check out the violence against women and girls manifesto

We're part of a coalition of more than 70 organisations that signed a joint manifesto to tackle ALL forms of violence against women and girls.

The manifesto calls for a comprehensive, whole-society approach that looks beyond the criminal justice system and centres women and girls who face the greatest barriers to support and protection.

Read the full manifesto