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A Crisis in Rape Crisis

17 Jul 2018

Ahead of this afternoon's (Tuesday 17th July 2018) All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sexual Violence session looking at the funding landscape for specialist support services, rape survivor and campaigner Fern Champion, and Rape Crisis England & Wales Policy Officer Rebecca Hitchen, appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC2 to discuss chronic under-resourcing of counselling and advocacy for victims and survivors.

A Crisis in Rape Crisis:

  • Rape Crisis Centres are facing a funding crisis due to chronic underfunding and long-term failure to invest in services
  • Money from Government needs to remain centralised and increase significantly in line with rising demand
  • Rape Crisis services are seeing more victims and survivors than ever before but some Centres are having to close waiting lists as inadequate funding means they can’t always meet the unprecedented levels of need.

Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) said:

"Specialist sexual violence and abuse services across England and Wales have historically been and remain chronically underfunded.

This situation does not allow services to respond to the huge, unprecedented demand and ever-growing need for specialist support for victims and survivors of rape and child sexual abuse."

Last year Rape Crisis services provided support to almost 80,000 victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse.

Despite this, 6000 victims and survivors (including children) remain on waiting lists and the huge demand has resulted in some Rape Crisis Centres having to close waiting lists.

This means people who have been raped or sexually abused as children - and children themselves - are being turned away from support.  

RCEW continued:

"Rape Crisis knows it can take a lot of courage to reach out for support and our member Centres describe it as ‘agonising’ and ‘soul destroying’ to not always be able to provide this.

But this is because Rape Crisis Centres, and victims of sexual violence and abuse, are being failed by Government through ineffective local and national statutory commissioning practices, a lack of Government commitment to addressing the needs of victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse, and the ongoing marginalisation of, and lack of sustainable funding for, sexual violence and abuse."

The Government has consistently given commitments to “Protecting women and girls from violence, and supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence” yet sexual violence and abuse were not mentioned within the recent Domestic Violence Bill consultation or in the role of the suggested domestic violence commissioner.   

The Government continues not to give clear leadership by instructing local authorities to include and address sexual violence as well as domestic violence. 

Sexual violence often exists within a framework of domestic violence, yet time and again Government and local authorities fail to ensure their rhetoric about sexual violence and abuse becomes action, enabling victims and survivors to access the sexual violence and abuse mental health services of their choice.        

Over the last 5 years, reports of rape to the police have gone up from 16,000 a year to more than 41,000 but over that same period the Home Office has ceased funding for Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs) who support survivors through the criminal justice system. At a time where the conviction rate remains at 5.7% for sexual offences, independent criminal justice support is essential.  

Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) undertook 10,000 forensic medical examinations in 2017/18 and NHS England has increased the funding for SARCs to £31 million for 2018/19. The Rape Crisis network receives a contribution of £3.5million from central government via the Ministry of Justice, despite providing specialist support and advocacy to 78,461 individuals a year - seven times as many survivors. This situation is hugely disproportionate. Especially as we have 40 years' experience and evidence that most victims of rape and childhood sexual abuse want to access independent, specialist services that are not within a medicalised or statutory setting.

The Istanbul Convention recommends a Rape Crisis Centre per 200,000 women. This means England and Wales should have 145 such Centres - more than three times the current 44 members of Rape Crisis England & Wales. 

RCEW added:

"There are Government plans to make Rape Crisis Centres apply yet again for a two-year Government Rape Support Fund grant. It is vital that this fund is ring-fenced for Rape Crisis Centres and that funding allocations move from ‘crumbs from the table’ and increase significantly to at last benefit victims and survivors in terms of their health and wellbeing.

What is certain is the funding and commissioning landscape has to change so that victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse can access the support they want and deserve." 

RCEW is Secretariat for the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sexual Violence, Co-Chaired by Sarah Champion MP and Maria Miller MP, which meets at the Commons at 2.30pm this afternoon to discuss the funding landscape for specialist sexual violence services. Fern Champion is among the speakers scheduled to address the session.