Between the Lines: Service Responses to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Women and Girls Experiencing Sexual Violence

6 Aug 2015

Launch of key findings from Between the Lines: Service Responses to Black and Minority ethnic (BME) Women and Girls Experiencing Sexual Violence, 2015

Dr Ravi Thiara, Centre for the Study of Safety and Well-being (University of Warwick) & Imkaan, supported by the Isla Fund 

Download the report here 

Addressing the uneven knowledge base about how sexual violence affects some sections of society, and the paucity in research focusing specifically on the experiences among BME women and girls, Between the Lines is the first exploratory study of its kind to assess service responses to BME women and girls experiencing sexual violence. Conducted in partnership between the Centre for the Study of Safety and Well-being, University of Warwick, and Imkaan, this report is the first phase of the research. It highlights issues that should inform future directions in policy and practice, whilst also providing a springboard for a more detailed study that both partners plan to conduct in the near future. The project was guided by specialists on sexual violence including Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) and Women & Girls Network (WGN).  

The study involved a national mapping survey with existing sexual violence services, and a sample of specialist BME domestic violence services; in-depth interviews with 10 key professionals from different sectors with an expertise in sexual violence.

On behalf of Rape Crisis England and Wales, Dr Marianna Tortell said:  

"This research both highlights the crucial importance of specialist services and responses that meet the needs of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) survivors and identifies the gaps in current provision. While there are examples of promising practice, the majority of organisations that are not led by BME women are only partly able to meet the needs of BME women accessing their services. Rape Crisis is committed to improving services for BME women and girls to ensure that all sexual violence survivors have access to the effective, specialist support and advocacy they want and deserve.”

On behalf of Imkaan, Sumanta Roy said:  

"This is a first exploratory study and an important piece of work as it provides an opportunity to place BME women and girls and their experiences of sexual violence in the spotlight like never before. We hope that the report feeds into dialogue at policy level and also look forward to continuing to work with Imkaan and RCEW members to consider what a more effective, specialist response would look like for BME women and girls."   

Marai Larasi, Executive Director at Imkaan said:

“Between the Lines is both important and timely. The report demonstrates the need for a major shift in the way that we think about, and provide services for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) survivors of sexual violence. We know that while there have been some positive developments,  BME women and girls are still falling through the gaps, even within specialist services. Not being able to access appropriate, effective support can have devastating consequences for a survivor, and this is simply unacceptable. For us at Imkaan, this report is a call to action.

While individual organisations will be able to use Between the Lines as a foundation for reflection and practice improvement, a wider strategic approach is needed. It is critical that government recognises that BME women and girls experience sexual violence, here, in the UK. It is critical that national and local policy makers and commissioners engage in a rethink about where BME women and girls fit in the violence against women and girls (VAWG) agenda i.e. BME women and girls should be a priority, not only as survivors of issues such as forced marriage, but as survivors of sexual violence. 

Imkaan is committed to improving access and quality of provision for BME women and girls who have survived sexual violence and other forms of abuse and partnership working is an essential aspect of this. We are pleased to be working with Rape Crisis England & Wales to explore ways of ensuring that BME women are able to access specialist, independent support around their experiences of sexual violence. We also look forward to continuing our work with Imkaan member organisations and other stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcomes for BME women and girls.”

Sarah Green from End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) said:

"We welcome this much needed research on what Black and Minority Ethnic women and girls need from sexual violence support services. We hope that those who commission services locally and nationally will take note and that we will see improvements soon."

Imkaan adds: 

"We express our thanks to the many people who have been involved in making this research possible. Our thanks to Dr. Sobia Masood for her assistance with SPSS, to Akima Thomas, Clinical Director at Women and Girls Network and Dr. Marianna Tortell and Lee Eggleston at Rape Crisis England & Wales for their advice and support. We are especially grateful to all the organisations (Imkaan members and sexual violence specialist organisations) who took time out to complete the survey and to all the interviewees who generously gave their time and thoughts. Special thanks to Dr. Ravi Thiara (University of Warwick) for her expertise and approach which was critical to the development and completion of the study."