Survivors of sexual violence are being denied support: Tell Theresa May this must end now
By Fern Champion, EVAW Campaigner
**This piece contains references to content that some readers may find upsetting or triggering**
In 2016 I was raped by a man while I was travelling. I was unconscious when he first assaulted me and when I was conscious, I said no repeatedly. He then told me again and again how much he could seriously hurt me. He raped me throughout the night. I reported the rape as soon as I was safe but my attacker has never been caught.
I returned to the UK in August 2017 and knew I needed support. I tried to access a counselling service right away. I called my local Rape Crisis centres, who were kind on the phone, but told me they’d had to close their waiting list and didn’t know when they might be able to offer me any help.
I tried again and again over the next 8 months, contacting multiple centres, and was told every time that they had huge numbers of women waiting.
Nearly two years on from the attack I was experiencing severe stress, lack of sleep, migraines and I was having flashbacks during my sleep which had started to creep into my waking hours too. I was self-medicating on alcohol just to get by. Every time I was rejected help from Rape Crisis, my mental health spiralled further beyond my control until suddenly I just couldn’t go on any longer.
Luckily for me, my employer saved me when I hit rock bottom by arranging private therapy for me. But my case is extremely rare – the reality is there are thousands of survivors of rape and sexual abuse suffering in silence and desperate for support being turned away from local Rape Crisis centres and other sexual violence support services across the country due to inadequate funding.
I was last turned away from a Rape Crisis waiting list on 8 March 2018. A year on from that date, many Rape Crisis waiting lists are still closed. There just isn’t enough funding or services to help everyone in need.
For years the Government have promised to turn something called the Istanbul Convention into law. It would give protection and set a standard of support for victims of sexual violence. It says there should be at least 150 Rape Crisis Centres in England and Wales. Currently there are only 44.
Help me, hold this government to account for the complete failure to ensure rape counselling services are there when survivors need them. Tell Theresa May that every victim of sexual violence and abuse has the right to access independent specialist support services in the community the moment they seek it, and to get long term counselling that will help them recover.
To find out more about how important this campaign is and how you can make a difference, check out End Violence Against Women Coalition who are supporting me in this petition.