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Health sector should help rape crisis teams

The possible closure of two support groups for victims ofsexual violence should be a cause of concern to a government that purports totake a tough line on crime.

Barnsley’s Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Helpline is now 20years old. Its four paid workers and team of 27 trained volunteers fear it maynot come of age.

The helpline receives a local authority grant that coversjust 5% of its costs, and depends mainly on short-term grants from sources suchas the National Lottery.

It receives nothing from health bodies which, incidentally,are keen to provide referrals.

Not that BSARCH would object to the referrals – it wouldjust be polite for health chiefs to pass on some dosh.

In the past year the group has answered 600 helpline callsand supported about 120 women face to face, but BSARCH estimates there areabout 22,500 people in its catchment area that could benefit from its services.

In a letter to New Statesman magazine, a trustee of theGuildford Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre paints a similar picture of despair inSurrey.

The correspondent says the centre is likely to reach crisis pointin October when a decision will be made whether to shut the service.

Sexual violence is difficult to quantify as so much of it isunreported – the so-called dark figure of crime. And the Barnsley estimates suggest the issue is a bigger one than the official statistics suggest.

Admittedly, health bodies are stretched financially, but nowis the time to recognise the value they get from support groups such as thosein Barnsley and Guildford. A little prompting from health secretary AlanJohnson would be a start.

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