This morning a friend informed me that 42% of rape crisis organisations in the UK have no Government funding confirmed beyond March 2016. I read this news as I considered that, in the last few days, we have seen the sentencing of people involved in the orchestrated sexual assault of girls in Rotherham, and a release of a report into sexual assault at the BBC. In both cases, institutions funded by the taxpayer emphatically failed to protect young and vulnerable people from rape and its aftermath. In just three weeks, the Government risks making a move that will compound their suffering.
The importance of the proposed discontinuation of funding cannot be overstated. Let us look at the numbers. To quote Rape Crisis England & Wales,
“Last year, our Rape Crisis England & Wales membership answered 165,000 helpline calls and provided ongoing specialist support services to over 50,000 individual sexual violence survivors.
Need and demand for our specialist work is at an unprecedented level and there are 3,500 survivors on our combined waiting lists.
The Istanbul Convention recommends there should be a Rape Crisis centre for every 200,000 women in the population and yet we know that the majority do not have access to one.
It’s estimated that 100,000 survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) will come forward in response to the current Independent Inquiry into CSA.
Our sister organisation Imkaan…[has ]released a report highlighting the critical state into which life-saving specialist black women’s groups have been pushed.“
Much has been written in recent days of how rape victims were abandoned to their fate, either by – among others – the BBC employee who was “obsessed” by his career or the police currently being investigated for 55 separate investigations into allegations of neglect of duty and corruption. The thought that these victims, having suffered such horrific acts, should then be denied access to support services is almost too appalling to contemplate.
Yet contemplate it we must. The infrastructure of support for victims of rape in the UK cannot be weakened any further. If anything, it must become stronger still. When news broke of the sexual assaults in Cologne, there was widespread fury. There should be similar anger at these proposed changes, because the damage they will cause is no less serious than what happened in Germany on New Year’s Eve.
If you would like to read more about the work of Rape Crisis England and Wales, please follow them on Twitter and visit their website.
If you would like to read more about the work of Sisters Uncut, a feminist group taking direct action for domestic and sexual violence services, please follow them on Twitter at @SistersUncut and visit their Facebook page.