New 24/7 support service for victims of rape launched
Victims of rape across England and Wales will have access to round-the-clock support as a new 24/7 Support Line is launched today (7 December 2022).
Specialist operators – available via telephone or webchat – will be on hand at any time to provide victims with vital information and emotional support. This includes signposting to local, longer-term services such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA).
The government-funded service will be operated by Rape Crisis England & Wales who have over 3 decades’ experience running a helpline for rape and sexual abuse survivors. It will be available to anyone aged 16 years and over who has experienced any form of sexual violence and abuse, at any point in their life.
The support line has been launched in time for the festive season when reports of sexual violence are known to increase. At least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 20 men have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult.
Research shows that victims who speak to an ISVA are 49% less likely to withdraw from the criminal justice process. This means that the more support a survivor receives, the more likely it is their attacker will be brought to justice.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said:
Making sure that victims of rape and sexual abuse have support whenever they need it is not only the right thing to do – it will also help us to bring more perpetrators to justice. When victims feel believed and supported, they are much more likely to stay the course in the criminal justice process. This vital helpline will have a major role to play in providing the support victims need, and in bringing more vile criminals to justice.
The Support Line delivers on a key pledge in the government’s Rape Review Action Plan which seeks to boost support for victims, improve confidence in the system and increase the number of cases reaching court.
The plan sets out clear actions for the police, prosecutors, and courts – to roll out a new approach to investigations, reduce the number of victims withdrawing from the process, increase the volumes of trials being heard, protect the public and put more rapists behind bars.
This work is starting to deliver results. In 2021, the number of rape convictions increased by 67% compared to 2020, and the CPS is making charging decisions on average 29 days quicker according to the latest data available. In September, the government also completed the roll out of pre-recorded evidence for rape victims to every Crown Court nationwide – sparing them the trauma of testifying under the full glare of a courtroom.
Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis England and Wales:
We are proud to have developed and now be launching the 24/7 Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Line, an important addition to the specialist support available for anyone 16 and over in England and Wales who has been impacted by sexual violence and abuse. No matter when or where it happened - we are here for you. If you contact us we will always listen to you and believe you, and we will never judge.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid said:
We welcome the government’s investment in a 24/7 support helpline, delivered by the great long-standing specialist service Rape Crisis, to provide round-the-clock support for survivors of sexual violence. We hope this will ensure survivors get the right response, first time - which we know is key to recovery after abuse. We’re hopeful this will also lead to an improvement in reporting and convictions of sexual offences. As well as providing much-needed support to survivors, it is crucial we send a strong message to women that they will be heard, they will be believed, and they will be helped.
Emily Hunt, independent advisor to the government on the Rape Review, said:
After I was raped, I quite literally was begging for help and support. And there wasn’t any - at least not when I needed it. Now, victims in England and Wales can reach out to trained specialists on the support line, whether it’s 2am or 2pm, whether they want to speak to someone on the phone or use web chat. They will be heard, they will be believed and they will be helped. This is the service that I needed then, and I am so happy to have been involved in making sure that victims now have the support that I didn’t.
Today’s announcement builds on recent government work to drive improvements in the criminal justice system. This includes quadrupling funding for victim services and bringing forward a landmark Victims Bill which seeks to ensure they are better heard, served and supported at every stage.
Meanwhile, specialist sexual violence support is being piloted at 3 Crown Courts - Leeds Newcastle, and Snaresbrook in London. It seeks to provide victims with enhanced at-court support and help increase throughput of cases. This work includes the introduction of trauma-informed training for court staff, maximising the use of technology, and access to ISVAs at court.