Cuts leave rape crisis centre under threat

Specialist rape clinics provide vital help to victims of rape and sexual assault. Picture posed by model. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.
Specialist rape clinics provide vital help to victims of rape and sexual assault. Picture posed by model. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.
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SCOTLAND’S busiest rape crisis centre is facing a funding crisis that could threaten its vital services to hundreds of women each year.

The Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre is battling to survive funding cuts at a time when reported rapes in Scotland have shot to shocking new levels.

The centre’s manager, Caroline Burrell, has warned the majority of their staff places were at risk as a result of funding cuts due to take effect at the end of Mya.

And she said they currently have a 12-month waiting list for long term services.

“Funding remains a significant challenge for the service, as 75% of our frontline support and counselling service is at risk due to funding streams which end on May 31, 2014,” she said.

She added: “The need for rape crisis services is greater than ever. Last year we supported 416 people. We provided 2,616 support and counselling sessions, and 1,066 hours of helpline support responding to 2,802 calls. We currently have a 12-month waiting list for long-term services to 55 survivors.”

Since losing core funding last year, in common with many other voluntary organisations, staff and volunteers have had to work to plug the funding gaps so that services can be maintained.

Targets were met last year, but without core funding the short-term future is likely to be a constant battle to survive, while the publicity given to high-profile trials of celebrities accused of historic sexual crimes is likely to encourage many more women to seek help.

In November last year, Police Scotland revealed a shocking 35% increase in the number of rapes, 905, reported in the half year from April to September 2013 against the same period in 2012.

Rape Crisis Scotland’s figures last year showed that only 17% of women and children who had sought their help in the previous 12 months had also reported the attack to the police.

Although some may have reported the crime at a later date, the normal pattern is that most never do so.

If the 905 reported rapes for the six months to the end of September represented about 17% of the total, the actual figure would be above 5,300.

The Edinburgh centre recently marked its 35th anniversary with an event hosted by Malcolm Chisholm MSP at the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Chisholm underlined the importance of such support networks for abused woman and hoped funding would be secured to allow the centre to celebrate many more anniversaries.

He said: “The centre is, sadly, extremely necessary because of the appalling extent of sexual abuse and rape, a very high proportion of which is unreported.

“Legal changes are urgently required so that more women feel able to come forward, so that proper respect and support is given at and before trials, and so that the conviction rate is higher at the end of the process.”