Rape victims failed by lack of funds, say campaigners

A chronic lack of funding and an inadequate legal system is leading to a crisis in care for rape victims in Britain, campaigners said yesterday. They accused the Government of "failing to provide the support women want and need" in the aftermath of traumatic sexual abuse.

In an open letter to the Home Secretary, 2,300 signatories including leading peers, academics, MPs and women's rights advocates said the few rape crisis centres which provide counselling and refuge for victims are at risk of closure because of "inadequate and insecure funding". The result, they said, is that many women have nowhere to go.

Only one out of every 20 rapes reported to the police result in conviction, with fewer than one in five even leading to a prosecution. The letter brands the Government's failure to bring rapists to justice as amounting to "a licence to rape".

Delivering the letter yesterday, Dr Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for sexual equality, told the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that services for rape victims were a postcode lottery, and more needed to be done to confront social attitudes that allowed sexual violence. "The Government needs a new strategy which is woman-centred, which ensures victims can access support, and which challenges the myths and stereotypes which enable sexual violence to proliferate," she said.

"The Government has led the way with attitude-changing campaigns on drink-driving and smoking. The time has come for a government campaign which addresses the prevalence of sexual violence by challenging myths about rape."

More than two-thirds of rape crisis centres have branded themselves "unsustainable". In the past five years, nine centres have been forced to close.

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