Rape crisis support delayed by up to two years as waiting list reaches record high

Some support centres have been forced to close their waiting list, despite many victims describing the service as a ‘lifeline’

Rape Crisis has revealed waiting lists for victims of rape and sexual assault have risen to a record high, with some people waiting up to two years for support.

The national rape support organisation has revealed some centres of its 39 centres across England and Wales have been forced to close their waiting list due to financial pressure.

The closures come despite the growing demand for support and rising numbers of cases being reported to police.

Unable to access ‘lifeline’

Figures from March 2021 revealed nearly 10,000 people (9,947) across England and Wales are waiting to speak with counsellors and therapists, double the number from four years ago, despite women describing the service as a “lifeline”.

This was up from 8,444 at the end of 2019-20, and 4,961 in 2016-17.

Rape Crisis are working to expand in order to cope with the mounting number of people using their services, but has called on the government to support its efforts.

Jayne Butler, the charity’s chief executive, told the PA news agency: “For many victims and survivors, reaching out for help is a huge step, one taken with extreme trepidation and difficulty – to make that step and then be told you have to wait up to two years for support is devastating and will leave many victims and survivors feeling as if they have nowhere to turn.”

The services supported more than 66,000 people last year in England and Wales, that figure is expected to expand to 75,000 by the end of 2021.

Ms Butler added: The significant increase in the number of people on Rape Crisis Centre waiting lists highlights how much of an impact Covid-19 has had on victims and survivors and demonstrates that demand for specialist counselling far exceeds the funding available.

“Our Rape Crisis Centres have worked extremely hard to find ways to support those on waiting lists, including providing regular phone check-ins, email services and online groups.

“Centres have shown they have the skills, knowledge and commitment to increase service provisions, what we really need to see is a cross-government funding commitment so that they can stabilise, develop their services and reduce waiting list times.

Staff left ‘in tears’ as victims turned away

The Chief Executive of West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, Jocelyn Anderson, said staff were “in tears” when they were forced to turn victims as young as five away once their waiting list reached 450.

The lack of support has been attributed somewhat to the government’s dismal record on supporting victims of rape - as convictions continue to plummet, with roughly half of all victims who report their ordeal to the police later dropping their complaint.

Following the government’s rape review In the summer, the former justice secretary Robert Buckland QC, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Attorney General Michael Ellis apologised, saying they were “deeply ashamed” that “victims of rape are being failed”.

The Government last week pledged to increase annual funding for Ministry of Justice victim support services to more than £185 million by 2024/25 – an 85% increase on funding in 2019/20, which will also help provide more Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisers (ISVAs and IDVAs).

Ms Anderson described how the supply and demand issue was untenable, as services could no longer afford to employ enough staff to support the growing demand for therapy, counselling and emotional support.

She added: “And it just came to a situation where I think it’s probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in this job to actually close the waiting lists for both adults and children.”