Demand for rape assistance services in Coventry has skyrocketed since last year

Coventry has recorded a record demand for rape support, a local charity reported.

Referrals to Coventry Rape & Sexual Abuse Center (CRASAC) have increased 58% this year compared to the same period last year.

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CRASAC CEO Natalie Thompson told CoventryLive that every year they see an increase, but factors such as lifting the lockdown have given opportunistic perpetrators a chance to attack.

A recent report published by Rape Crisis England & Wales showed that the national demand for specialist services to support victims and survivors of sexual violence has increased by more than 40% since 2019 – with more than 10,000 currently on lists. waiting.

Earlier this year, CoventryLive reported that rape and sexual assault victims in Coventry are currently facing a one-year wait for help.

Natalie Thompson of CRASAC explained that things haven’t been any easier: “If you look back over the past two years you can see that the numbers have steadily increased, the number of referrals has steadily increased from year to year. in year and then we will have peaks at certain times of the year. “

A 58% increase in referrals to CRASAC over this period last year is a worrying statistic, why did this happen?

Ms Thompson said they expect a slight increase year over year, but there are a series of factors that determine how many referrals CRASAC gets.

“It’s normally influenced by what’s going on in the news, things like Jimmy Saville, that caused a spike, something after that about footballers, so all of those things allow people to refer.”

She also said factors such as TV shows, soap opera plots and the Me Too movement all played a role in people asking for help.

Some CRASAC staff and volunteers

And the victims of historical abuse are also manifesting themselves in increasing numbers: “Many people who contact us, for some it is recent, for others it is historical, it can take a long time for people to have the courage. to contact us, ”Ms. Thompson mentioned.

“The majority of sexual violence occurs at someone’s home. In Covid, people weren’t going to people’s homes, so there was a slight reduction, however, the benchmarks absolutely bounced higher than they were. were not before Covid. “

The 58% increase in referrals to CRASAC concerns the period from April to September 2021 compared to April to September 2020.

Ms Thompson said CRASAC is busier than ever, with 35 staff available to support victims.

She said that to reduce the number of cases, they need to take into account the number of ongoing attacks.

“[With] rape culture and victim blame in society, we still have a long way to go.

“I think the recent up-to-the-minute tactic is to watch passers-by, not sit still and listen to your friend talk about sexual harassment. Be honest and actually say it’s wrong because sexual harassment can pave the way for rape and sexual violence to occur. ”

Ms Thompson added that they plan to work with schools to tackle the root of the problem: “Peer violence is on the rise, which worries me the most if our young people don’t understand what is acceptable behavior and unacceptable, what are they going to do to be like adults? “

The ‘Holding It Together’ report on Rape Crisis England & Wales details the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on services such as CRASAC and makes recommendations to improve support for victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault.

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It highlights the enormous pressures on rape crisis centers and the need for sustainable funding to continue their highly specialized work that responds to the growing demands of survivors.

Regarding the findings of the report, Ms Thompson said: “We welcome this report which demonstrates the resilience and adaptability of organizations such as ours to ensure that victims and survivors can access our services and obtain support. quality they deserve.

“However, it is critical that we get the funding we need to meet the growing demand for our services.

“This includes not only expert counseling and helpline services, but also our crisis and advocacy service which provides support to victims navigating the criminal justice system – something extremely important given that statistics show that rape prosecutions have fallen to an all-time high. ”

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