Photo: Jacob King/PA
Rape crisis centers that provide support and counseling to victims are forced to close waiting lists across the country as a lack of funding means they can no longer meet demand.
Staff at centers from Scotland to Somerset have defined waiting lists of up to 18 months for access to counseling, therapy and advocacy services, and some have decided to close the lists altogether.
Rape Crisis England and Wales said around 14,000 people are waiting for services at one of these accredited rape crisis centres. Observer. These centers provide therapy and counseling and are often funded by a mix of national and local government money, as well as grant and trust funding.
Edinburgh Rape Crisis, one of Scotland’s largest, closed waiting lists for adults and survivors in the criminal justice system in December, when the waiting period exceeded 18 months.
“We have closed our listings as there is an unacceptable waiting period,” said Mridul Wadhwa, director of the centre. “Closing is a painful decision. One of the main reasons is to manage the well-being, safety and sustainability of the organization and team; We must be able to look after the survivors while they wait.
“We don’t have the capacity to do this effectively and so we have chosen to close our waiting lists.”
According to the Rape Crisis, one in four women in the UK have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult. Conviction rates remain low, however, and in 2021 only one out of every 100 cases recorded by the police resulted in a conviction. In 2022, it turned out that survivors of sexual violence in England and Wales face the longest ever wait for justice, with cases taking an average of nine months to complete.
Romy Rehfeld, director of the Highland Rape and Sexual Abuse Service, which had the highest wait times in Scotland last year, said: “It’s a very heavy load on you. People reach out in a crisis where other coping mechanisms are no longer working. They do not reach out thinking that I can enter and I may need support.”
The West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Center temporarily closed its waiting lists in 2021, when waiting times exceeded two years. Now CEO Jocelyn Anderson fears she may have to do it again.
“All caseloads are over capacity, and we’ve already cut the therapy service to the bone,” he said. “We are starting the new financial year with a significant shortcoming; If we don’t get additional funding, we lose staff, we close the list again, and customers suffer.”
Sarah Cotton, a counselor on the Bradford Rape Crisis, said women who were first interviewed at the center were told they would likely wait a year to begin counseling.
“We are increasingly having to rely on freelance ‘bank’ advisers who have an impact on what we can offer,” Cotton said. “We’re always managing waiting lists and managing expectations – you’re more of a firefighter than a therapist.”
More than 1,000 people are currently waiting for support in Somerset and Avon. “We haven’t closed our list, but we’ve really thought about it, and we’re at a point where it’s almost unethical to have such a long list,” CEO Claire Bloor said. “We are at pandemic demand levels without the same increases in funding.
“Not investing in these services is a false economy – if we fail to provide support, people end up in acute mental health care and even kill themselves.”
Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis England and Wales, said long-term, sustainable financing for expert support and advocacy services is “more urgently needed than ever”.
“For many victims and survivors, getting help is a big step, a step taken with extreme anxiety and hassle – taking that step and then being told you can’t access support is devastating. It leaves survivors feeling like they have nowhere to go.”
Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said the situation was “heartbreaking” and funding needed to protect jobs and maintain support.
“Survivors should feel they can contact their local rape crisis center if they need support. We encourage survivors who are thinking of reaching out to do so,” said Brindley.
Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organizations. Rape Crisis in the UK offers support on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland or 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland. In the US, Rainn offers support at 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available by calling 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international hotlines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html.