Charities find 200% increase in online requests for rape and domestic abuse support
The findings come as the Government announces additional £40 million investment for specialist support services and new #ItStillMatters campaign.
The Ministry of Justice has announced a new £40 million funding boost for specialist support services for both rape and domestic abuse victims as charities warn of significant rise of online requests for help.
Latest figures show that combined call and webchat volumes for sexual violence helplines and support services were up by 206% in the week commencing 28 December 2020, compared to the pre-pandemic baseline.
The data was published alongside the announcement for additional funding, as well as the launch of a new campaign to raise awareness of the support available for victims and survivors of sexual and domestic abuse.
The new #ItStillMatters campaign has been developed to be accessible and applicable to both male and female victims in conjunction with leading support charities including Rape Crisis, Survivors UK, Imkaan, and the Male Survivors Partnership.
The Ministry of Justice outlined that the £40 million funding boost would be split across local and community-based services, additional recruitment initiatives, smaller specialist organisations, as well as remote and online services.
Male specific services will see a 60% funding increase following a significant increase in demand for support from men and boys.
£20.7 million will be distributed to local, community-based sexual violence and domestic abuse services to attempt to reduce support waiting times, whilst £16 million will be spent on recruiting around 400 new sexual violence and domestic abuse advisors.
The Government also confirmed that £2 million will go to specialist organisations that help BAME, LGBTQ+, or disabled victims.
Finally, £1.3 million has been pledged for remote and online services, with over half earmarked for the Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS), a digital tool that helps victims apply for emergency protection from the courts.
Justice Minister Alex Chalk stressed the importance of rising awareness of the services available to victims.
“For many victims this pandemic has been an inescapable nightmare in which they often feel trapped and at greater risk of harm,” said Mr Chalk.
“Their protection remains an absolute priority and this funding, backed by our new campaign, should mean no victim is left to suffer alone.”
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales welcomed the announcement and highlighted how the “exacerbated isolation” of lockdown had fueled increase demand for support.
“As the extremely challenging conditions of the last ten months have exacerbated isolation, anxiety and complex physical, mental and emotional health issues for sexual violence and abuse victims and survivors, we’ve inevitably seen demand for our specialist services increase even further,” said Russell.
“We’re pleased too that the Government’s new campaign will echo and amplify our consistent message to those living with the impacts of all forms of sexual violence and abuse: you are not alone, we are still here for you.”
Responding to the announcement, abuse charity Refuge said that the funding announcement did not go far enough to help deal with the levels of support requests during the pandemic
"Never before have so many survivors of domestic and sexual abuse come forward for support than during the Covid-19 crisis," said Tracy Blackwell, from the charity.
"However, this is another short-term pot of funding which cannot meet the urgent need for a sustainable funding strategy which provides for all specialist services - including Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline which needs additional long-term funding to deal with increased demand," she added.
Victims and survivors of sexual violence or abuse can visit gov.uk/sexualabusesupport to see the support on offer.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse and feel at risk of harm the Stay at Home guidance does not apply.