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Police are failing survivors with communication needs, research finds

Leading women’s rights organisations, including Rape Crisis England & Wales, have today (20th April 2023) launched a report exposing how communication barriers negatively impact victims' and survivors' experiences of safety and access to justice.

Listen to us! Communication barriers: How statutory bodies are failing Black, Minoritised, Migrant, Deaf and Disabled women and girls victims/survivors of VAWG finds that victims and survivors with communication needs are more likely to be afraid to contact the police for fear of discrimination and violence and that public bodies, including the police, are failing to comply with their obligations under the Equality Act to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation when interacting with survivors facing communication barriers.

Responses to a call for evidence found:

- More than half of the survivor respondents had experienced police failures to communicate at an appropriate level or make reasonable adjustments

- Nearly half were not informed about the process or their rights after contacting the police to report abuse or violence

- 44% had prior experience of discrimination, including racism, ableism and xenophobia, from the police

This evidence echoes what specialist ‘by and for’ specialist organisations have long raised the alarm about. Specialist services led by and for Black, minoritised, migrant, Deaf or disabled women are best placed to provide the tailored support women need. However, these services are chronically underfunded and facing increasing demand as well as soaring running costs during the cost of living crisis.

In order to improve access to support and justice for victims and survivors with communication needs, the report provides recommendations for police forces, public bodies and the government.

These include:

● The Victims and Prisoners Bill should include a legal duty to ensure victims and survivors’ rights to communication support, similar to those accused of a crime

● The police and other criminal justice agencies should ensure all resources are produced in accessible formats and available in other community languages

● Police training should include more in-depth equalities work; addressing discrimination, myths and stereotypes about sex, race and ethnicity, social class, disability and other protected characteristics concerning victims and survivors

● The government should commit to creating a sustainable funding model for the provision of specialist user-led Deaf and disabled organisations and ‘by and for’ services which are independent, trauma-informed and offer advocacy and ‘wraparound’ support for all victims/survivors of VAWG

● Police and Crime Commissioners should proactively engage and work with specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services and conduct local needs assessments to ensure that specialist ‘by and for’ services are appropriately resourced.