Rape Crisis centres get cash boost from government

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. Picture: Michael Gillen

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. Picture: Michael Gillen

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victims of sex crimes in Edinburgh and the Lothians will benefit from extra support following a £1.85 million government investment.

The cash, announced by Justice Minister Michael Matheson, will strengthen resources for rape centres across the country.

No matter where you live in Scotland, you should be able to access these services

Sandy Brindley

It will fund 15 advocacy and support workers at Rape Crisis centres across Scotland, including the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.

The centre, which also provides vital support to victims from East Lothian and Midlothian, will receive £40,000 each year in 2016 and 2017.

In West Lothian, an advocacy worker will be employed to work with the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team (DASAT) at the Civic Centre in Livingston.

The investment comes after crime figures showed that the number of sex crimes reported in Scotland had increased by 11 per cent in 2014-15. The Capital reflects a similar trend, with reports of indecency crimes up by a fifth in the last year and half of all rapes being classed as historic.

Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, said that the workers provided key support throughout the criminal justice process.

She said: “[The funding] will make a huge difference. No matter where you live in Scotland, you should be able to access these services. It’s right from the very start, right through if it goes to court, and support after court.

“People sometimes think that support ends after court finishes, even if it’s positive in terms of a conviction. It’s really important that there’s support there afterwards.”

New support projects are also being set up in Orkney and Shetland, while the remainder of the funding will go towards a National Sexual Violence Prevention Co-ordinator to lead work with young people.

A sex abuse survivor from West Lothian was among the victims who met the Justice Secretary yesterday.

The woman, who has been supported by the DASAT in Livingston since 2011, said: “My worker was literally the one person who carried me through the whole process and I honestly don’t know how I would have got through it without her help and support.

“From my first meeting with her, she made me feel comfortable. She built up my confidence when I had none. She supported me through my journey and was there for me whenever I needed her. I could ask her questions that I didn’t feel comfortable asking the police.”

Mr Matheson said: “We want to do all we can to support them, which is why we are today increasing funding for these services by record amounts.” He said the next step was to “strengthen the law”, with the upcoming launch of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill. This will create extra powers against those who commit domestic abuse, harassment and sexual offences, and includes a new offence to tackle so-called “revenge porn”.

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com