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Mayor promises to protect rape crisis services at visit with Duchess of Cornwall

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today re-affirmed his commitment to supporting rape crisis centres and said it is vitally important to protect the services from budget cuts.

In the current financial climate many women’s services in particular are facing budget cuts from local authorities and government agencies, and it is feared some may not survive.  In addition to quadrupling rape crisis services in the capital the Mayor is also proactively working with and lobbying boroughs to secure sustainable long term funding for rape crisis provision across London.

The Mayor was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall today during a visit to the new East London Rape Crisis Service. At the centre they met therapists and counsellors from the Nia Project who provide a mix of support, counselling, and holistic therapies to women and young people dealing with the aftermath of rape and sexual violence.

This is the second visit the Duchess of Cornwall has made to one of the Mayor’s Rape Crisis Services, having previously visited the west London service last summer. 

The Mayor Boris Johnson said: “I remain firmly committed to funding rape crisis services in London and I urge every local authority to think long and hard before considering budget cuts to these vital services. Visiting the east London rape crisis centre today has reiterated the importance of these projects. They are an essential tool for the women and young people overcoming the trauma of rape and seeking help to get their lives back on track.”

At the centre the Mayor and HRH met a young woman who has used rape crisis counselling to help her deal with a violent sexual assault.

She said: “I felt lost and alone, I didn’t know what to do. I felt so dirty, like no-one would want me. I had the names and the horrible comments. The service made me realise it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t to blame. Now I don’t need to use things to numb the pain. I can talk to someone instead and choose a better path for myself. They didn’t make me feel just like a number or a statistic – they made me feel like a person.”

Karen Ingala from the Nia Project said: “Rape and sexual assault is much more common than most people believe and happens far more often than official statistics tell us. Twenty-three per cent of women experience sexual assault as an adult.  It is widely thought that most rapes are committed by strangers attacking women, but rape often takes place in the context of domestic violence. Fourty per cent of adults who are raped tell no one about it. Rape Crisis Services are not places for victims to report crimes or places of forensic investigation, but are designed for those who have survived rape or sexual abuse, either recently or in the past, to get the emotional and practical support that they need.”

The London Borough of Redbridge is the lead commissioning borough in the east London service. They are collaborating with six other boroughs on the centre and the service is open to residents of Redbridge, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Waltham Forest and Newham.

Councillor Shoaib Patel, Redbridge Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Community Safety, attended the visit.  He said, “I am proud that Redbridge has taken a leading role in providing a rape crisis service to help victims of these traumatic crimes across east London. Behind every rape and sexual abuse statistic there is an individual and we want to ensure that these individuals can access the specialist help they need. By working with the Mayor’s office and our partner boroughs we have created a service that is helping people rebuild their lives through counselling, support and advocacy.”

The East London Rape Crisis Centre works with women and girls over the age of 14 who have experienced all forms of gendered violence, including rape, childhood sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, prostitution, trafficking, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and ‘honour’ based violence.  Services provided include one to one counselling, support, group therapy, art and body therapies.

The Mayors Office is providing support of up to £370K over the next two financial years (2010/11 and 2011/12) to assist with the service start-up of the centre. The Mayor has promised to maintain funding the provision of rape crisis services if he is re-elected. 

In December, the Mayor launched the website www.rapecrisislondon.org

which brings together information about all four London Rape Crisis Centres making it easier for survivors to access the services.   The website is a resource for friends and family of rape victims, providing information on how they can help someone who has experienced sexual violence and it will also signpost men and boys to specialist services working with men.

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