Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Three times the number of lap-dancing clubs as rape crisis centres

Professor Liz Kelly
EVAW Chair

As we celebrate the achievements of women around the world this International Women’s Day, March 8th, we should also reflect on the continuing barriers to equality.

Pause for a moment and think - if a female friend was raped wouldn’t you advise them to call a helpline, maybe even rape crisis. Did you know there is no 24-hour sexual violence helpline in the entire UK? Or that there are now half the rape crisis centres there were in 1984 (then there were 68, now just 37)? That there are no rape crisis services at all in Wales and Northern Ireland?

The Government has made some efforts recently to stem the haemorrhaging of sexual violence services – investing £4 million from the Victims Fund spread between establishing new Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and support for existing rape crisis and survivors groups. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/hors285.pdf

£4million sounds like a lot, but government is spending ten times that amount (£40 million) on public information about the switch to digital media. For three years delays in announcing continuation funding until the very last minute places impossible burdens on already fragile groups, who have to issue redundancy notices to core staff. Who cares about the survivors for whom these groups are a lifeline, the women who will be assaulted in the future who will have nowhere to turn?

What does it tell us that in 2007 the state of Florida has almost twice the number of rape crisis centres as the entire United Kingdom (53:37)? That there are three times (and growing) as many lap-dancing clubs as rape crisis centres (and falling)?

This is a real crisis and I have had enough of uninterested journalists and complacent politicians – I want to start a new campaign. It has two simple asks.

· The first is for an immediate grand gesture - if a single premier league football donated one weeks wages it would secure all rape crisis centres for at least a year.
· The second is that the Government creates a mechanism to secure existing sexual violence services consistent with its own compact for voluntary sector – that funding is done on a three year cycle.

For too long women have settled for very little, it is time to say the standard of services available communicate something profound. In the aftermath of sexual violence it tells us whether as a country we think women are worth more or worth less.


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