In the Guardian today, a sobering article described how the lack of funding for Rape Crisis centres means that many will have to close down, possibly within days. I found this information deeply disturbing – although I have never used the service myself, I wish that I had previously been aware of it and find the idea that it might disappear abhorrent.
After being raped, it is essential that women have a “safe” ground – someone to talk to that they don’t really know, but who can provide information and support about whatever they feel their next step should be. Often, rape survivors suffer in silence (as I did) because they are too afraid to discuss or confront what has happened to them with people that they know and love. They are too afraid that they will be judged negatively, or that they will be blamed for something that they ultimately could not control. In this sense, Rape Crisis does more good than anyone can ever estimate, simply by being there.
Perhaps the difficulty stems from the fact that Rape Crisis is not centralised like other organisations (e.g Refuge). Of course, centralisation would bring difficulties – how would the level of funding needed be judged? Also, the local groups themselves are often better placed to decide what kind of services are needed – are they in an area with a large ethnic community and require different training to understand cultural sensitivities, for example. However, a centralised base for Rape Crisis would be better placed to publicise and raise initial funds for the local organisations. A small policy/research unit could lobby more effectively than disparate groups. Recruitment to local centres may well become easier if there was a central core to promote issues and raise awareness of the service.
One day, I would love to take on this challenge. I would really like to give something back and make sure that people are aware of the importance of Rape Crisis and to make sure that all women had equal access to it. Sadly, it looks like it might be too little, too late.
Please, if you can – phone your local centre and find out what’s going on there and what you can do to help. Rape Crisis needs your support, just as we have needed it in the past.