Cuts to Domestic Violence Services & Rape Crisis
I am a survivor of domestic violence. I have been free for 10 years now. The last time I suffered violence at the hands of my ex husband was 2 days after my 12 year old daughters’ 2nd birthday. I was strangled to the point of passing out while she was sat on my lap. We were already divorced. We suffered years of abuse afterwards in the form of threats and he was still looking for me up to his death the Christmas before last. I accessed specialist services for women who have experienced domestic violence. I received invaluable help with being rehoused, home security and general advice. Services such as Womens Aid, and many regional services, also provide legal information among a wide range of other help. Their help, I am certain, saved mine and my daughters lives, they also gave me the strength to go on when I thought my life was over. These services save thousands, if not millions of women and children every year. They are vital to the fight against domestic violence, as are many other domestic violence services around the UK, including Broken Rainbow, which is a service specificaly for LGBT victims. The local Domestic Violence officer in my local town also helped me alot 10 years ago.
I am lucky enough never to have needed Rape Crisis for myself, but I do know people who have. It is there for a reason and is also invaluable. Without it many victims would suffer in silence, believing they are completely alone.
This government has cut funding for many Womens Aid services, and Rape Crisis centres have been forced to close due to funding cuts. Don’t believe me? Look at this:
Due to the council funding cuts support services for vulnerable people will have their budgets cut by up to two thirds over the next 4 years. “Supporting People” helps a wide range of people including domestic violence victims, homeless people and those with mental health problems. George Osborne announced in his Comprehensive Spending Review that he was cutting their funding by 12%.( That’s 12% of £1.6billion) However there is another twist. That money is not ring fenced and councils can spend it how they see fit, so there is no garauntee that it will go to the services it is intended for. I do believe that is a cunning plot by this Tory Government to pass the buck onto local councils who are facing huge cuts to their government funds, unless they are one of Mr Camerons pet Tory councils, then they are getting a less than 1% cut.
Nottingham council has said that it will cut it’s Supporting People allocation by 67%.
Somerset council is cutting theirs by 18% this year.
Cornwall council are cutting theirs by 40% over the next 3 years.
Untill last month Rape Crisis centre in Scotland were due to have their funding cut and score of centres were at risk of closure. The Scottish government has no made a U-Turn on that issue.
After much protest the London Mayor, Boris Johnson has kept his promise to increase the funding of London Rape Crisis centres by £433k a year untill 2012. Previously the centre in Croydon was under threat of closure. There are only 2 Rape Crisis centres in London.
Womens Aid are still unsure as to whether they will continue to receive adequate funding. If they do not then they will be forced to close refuges, among other services, to vulnerable victims and their children. That means nowhere for women escaping domestic violence to go to. No place of safety for them or their children. That is a tragedy.
Broken Rainbow is also part of the partnership working to fight domestic violence among gay people in the capital and stands to lose £14,186 – that’s 10% of its annual income. Broken Rainbow is the only specialist service for LGBT victims. The cuts will also hit London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard which works on the same project and is already strapped for cash.
It both amazes and disgusts me that these vital services, that save lives, are going through such tough times. It has taken so many years to, first have domestic violence recognised as a crime (untill the mid 80’s it was considered a ‘family matter’ and not a criminal offence to beat your partner or spouse), and secondly, to create a wide network of services and refuges to help traumatised victims both find safety and rebuild their lives. How can a government that claims to be for the family leave these people with no support? How can they justify passing the buck to cash strapped local councils who are already facing tough dilemas in many cases (although some are just weilding the axe for what looks like their own evil pleasure). It is this governments responsibility in this day and age to ensure, not just hope, that these vital services receive the funding they so desperately need to save these lives and to rebuild people’s futures. The Big Society isn’t going to cover it, I know that for a fact.
I have been in a refuge twice. It saved me and my daughter. Without the refuge we would not have made it. I have had help dealing with a stubborn council who left us in a hostel for 4 months. Without the good people at the domestic violence centre we would have been left to rot, or worse told that we had made ourselves intentionally homeless as I had no visible injuries and had only ever called the police on one occassion. I was given the confidence to stand tall and be a survivor instead of a victim. I was shown that I was not alone, not by a long shot. Before I accessed their services I truely thought I was on my own.
These services need to be retained, improved and prioritised. This government is showing itself to be uncaring, sexist and intolerant. This needs to change. They are unwilling. We need to show them how we feel and we need to make it loud!!