A lack of funding for several UK rape crisis centres is leading to survivors of sexual assault either facing lengthy waits or in some cases being turned away, it has emerged. Reports from local authorities have stated budget issues are leading to many centres closing their waiting lists or closing their services completely as they reach capacity.
An estimated 14,000 people are still awaiting to be seen by the crucial social service as support services have reached a breaking point. Edinburgh Rape Crisis, one of Scotland’s largest support centres, has had to stop people from adding themselves to the waiting list. Speaking to The Guardian, the centre’s director Mridul Wadhwa said: “We closed our lists because that is an unacceptable waiting time. Closing is a painful decision.
“One of the key reasons is to manage the well-being, safety and sustainability of the organisation and team; we must be able to care for survivors even while they are waiting, we don’t have the capacity to do this effectively and therefore we chose to close our waiting lists.”
A BBC study published in April 2022 found that survivors of sexual violence in England and Wales face the longest-ever wait for justice, with cases taking an average of nine months to complete. The length of these cases has led to the strain on UK rape crisis centres, which cannot sustain financially the level of support this crucial service continues to provide - for now.
Despite several high-profile cases receiving public attention, the conviction rate regarding sexual assault remains one of the lowest in the first world. Just one in every 100 cases recorded by police in 2021 ended in a conviction, with that number having the potential to exponentially increase as statistics have shown that one in four women in the UK has been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult, according to Rape Crisis.
“It weighs very heavily on you,” Romy Rehfeld, manager of Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland told The Guardian. “People reach out at a point of crisis when other coping mechanisms are no longer working; they don’t reach out thinking ‘in a year’s time I might be in crisis and need some support’.”
If you have been affected by any of the topics mentioned throughout this article, information and support are available for you. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, or 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland.