190 women forced to declare their experience of rape to claim child tax credit
The Government has published its statistics on the so-called 'rape clause' exemption to the two-child tax credit limit, revealing that 190 women so far have gone through the process of declaring a child of theirs was conceived through rape in order to retain the benefit for their family's welfare.
On International Peace Day last year, Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) joined valued partners, including Women's Aid, BPAS and the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coaltion (of which RCEW is a member), in co-signing an open letter calling on the UK Government to scrap its two-child tax credit limit, which disadvantages women who have experienced rape and domestic violence.
The letter said:
"We strongly oppose the UK Government's two-child tax credit limit, a dangerous policy that forces victims of domestic and sexual violence to disclose that their third or subsequent baby was conceived as a result of rape or coercive control, in order to avoid losing their child's tax credits.
Many women will never disclose rape to anyone, for reasons including trauma, self-protection, shame, and fear for others - including their child. To force them to do so is cruel. In Northern Ireland, where the law requires that all rapes are reported to police, survivors are further forced to engage with the criminal justice system. The demand for a woman to have left the perpetrator in order to claim tax credits reveals a complete lack of understanding of the coercive and controlling behaviour that underpins this crime and the life-threatening risks facing women and children who leave.
The 'rape clause' is set against a backdrop of wider changes to social security rules that restrict women's access to security, safety and the resources they need to live free from violence and abuse."
As a result of changes to the benefit system, Rape Crisis Centres - who provided ongoing services to over 78,000 individuals last year - have seen an increase in the number of women seeking their specialist advocacy support around issues of welfare and financial hardship.
"The current situation leaves victims and survivors, who are already living with the long-term health and social impacts of sexual violence, doubly disadvantaged.
If you're worrying about being able to feed your children or keep a roof over their heads, how can you meaningfully engage in counselling, or go through a criminal justice process that can often take two years?"
Rape Crisis spoke on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour with Jane Garvey and Alison Thewliss MP about the cruel impacts of the two-child tax credit limit and 'rape clause' on Friday 29th June: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b7d1d7