Asking the Right Questions Looking for Answers
Suffolk Rape Crisis welcomes the HMIC Rape Monitoring Group’s commitment to transparency and scrutiny of the handling of sexual offences by the police. The document asks a series of relevant questions and is looking for answers; we are unclear how they are going to be addressed in local areas? The increase in recorded rapes that today’s figures reveal, mirror the demand Rape Crisis Centers are experiencing.
Rape Crisis Centers nationally responded to 171,000 helpline calls in 2015 - 2016, an average of over 3,000 a week. At the end of March 2016 there were over 4,000 service users waiting for our specialist services.
In Suffolk our helpline took almost 300 calls last year; we provide specialist counselling to 45 women and girls a week, with just over 40 on our waiting list. We see another 3-5 a week for initial referral meetings. We offer specialist pre-trial therapy too, and there is strong evidence that women are much more likely to continue through the justice process whilst receiving this support. Survivors often live alone with their experiences for years before disclosing what’s happened to them.
Changes and improvements have been made in both police practice and how the criminal justice system handles reports of rape and sexual assaults. Survivors are now treated more seriously and more sensitively. Let’s remember that this is the result of hard campaigning for change in the Police’s approach by independent voluntary groups such as Suffolk Rape Crisis and others representing women’s fundamental rights. It’s positive that more sexual violence survivors are coming forward to seek support and justice as sexual offences are under-reported in comparison to other crimes.
A key issue is that those who report such offences need to be confident that they will be believed when they come forward. Without that, rape and sexual assault will continue to be overwhelmingly under-reported. SRC supports a significant number of women who have never reported what has happened to them to the police. For the criminal justice system they’re invisible. The crimes they have experienced may have happened years ago, but the perpetrators remain in our communities, not held to account or punished. That needs to change.
The Rape Monitoring Group figures tell us that rape of adults and children is not a marginal or rare crime- it is very common. Despite this and the growing demand for our services we face continued funding uncertainty. We know our specialist services are vital and life-saving. Many of the women and girls we work with have been referred to us by statutory sector partners like early years teams, social services, GP’s, the mental health trust, schools- yet no funding follows these referrals.
Now is the time for Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner to increase our funding: put it on a sustainable footing and lead the call for others to follow suit.
Link to the report here: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/suffolk-rmg-digest-2015-16.pdf
- The Stern Review - A report into how rape complaints are handled by public authorities in England and Wales.
- The Government Response to the Stern Review
- Government action plan to end violence against women and girls
- The Crisis in Rape Crisis - a report from the Women's Resource Centre
- The Crown Prosecution Service - Violence against Women and Girls Crime Report 2011/12
- Ouaine Bain & Maureen Sanders - Out in the open: A guide for young people who have been sexually abused
- Ellen Bass & Laura Davis - The courage to heal
- Laura Davis - The courage to heal workbook
- Linda A Ledray - Recovering from rape
- Aphrodite Matsakis - The rape recovery handbook: Step-by-step help for survivors of sexual assault
- Robin Warshaw - I never called it rape
- Maya Angelou - I know why the caged bird sings
- Sylvia Fraser - My father's house: A memoir of incest and healing
- Abi Grant - Words can describe
- Jill Saward & Wendy Green - Rape, my story
- Susan Estrich - Real Rape: How the legal system victimizes women who say no
- Liz Kelly - Surviving Sexual Violence
Academic books about rape and other forms of sexual violence