Rape charity expands to cope with rising demand

A SEXUAL assault support charity is significantly expanding its counselling services following a huge rise in demand fuelled by the pandemic and the killing and rape of Sarah Everard in the UK.

The 'Take Back the Night' walk organised by Jersey Action Against Rape (JAAR) Picture: ROB CURRIE.
The 'Take Back the Night' walk organised by Jersey Action Against Rape (JAAR) Picture: ROB CURRIE.

Jersey Action Against Rape says that the lockdowns have not only led to a rise in domestic assaults of all kinds but have left long-term victims of abuse feeling they had no other option but to reach out for help.

And the charity says the death of 33-year-old Ms Everard, which dominated the national news and led to widespread protests in London, made more women realise that abuse and harassment should not be tolerated.

Zoe Collins-Fisher, from JAAR, spoke out after the organisation received £10,448 from the second tranche of the government’s Fiscal Stimulus Fund to increase its counselling service to cope with demand.

The charity had earlier received £11,575 to refurbish its premises and £5,406 to set up a digital charity shop website during the first wave of funding.

Ms Collins-Fisher said: ‘Sexual violence is a pandemic itself and we have seen an increase in people contacting us as a result of incidents during lockdown and as people’s normal routine has been affected and isolation has left a lot of people vulnerable.

‘Both lockdowns have had a massive impact and many victims of sexual assault have had to come to terms with their traumas as a lot of their coping mechanisms, such as time outside or a simple journey to work, have been taken away from them.

‘This has meant that they have reached out for help as a means of dealing with their traumas.’

Ms Collins-Fisher added that the case of Ms Everard, who was raped and killed by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens after walking home alone in Clapham in London in March, had led to an increase in the number of people seeking help. Couzens recently pleaded guilty to the rape and kidnap of Ms Everard and admitted responsibility for her death, but did not enter a formal plea to the latter.

‘The movement on social media after her death caused a lot of people to get in contact with us as they realised the types of harassment and behaviour they were subject to on a daily basis was not acceptable,’ said Ms Collins-Fisher.

The £10,448 will be used to extend two of the charity’s part-time paid counsellors’ work from ten to 17 hours per week.

Ms Collins-Fisher said that the charity was seeking further funding to extend this to 30 hours to cope with a continual increase in demand for their services.

‘We already had to increase our counselling hours at the start of the year. At the end of 2020 the waiting time for our services was nine months, which is too long to wait. We check in with people up until they are seen by us but such a long wait is not ideal. We managed to bring this down to seven months at the start of the year and we are hoping this grant will help bring it down to four months.

‘In an ideal world we would love to get our waiting times down to two months but we are a very small charity with two part-time paid counsellors and the rest is made up of volunteers who may only be able to do one or two counselling sessions a week,’ she said.

‘We are so grateful for this grant and this money will allow us to confidently increase our hours, which is so important as I feel the charity makes a big impact in supporting people through what is an incredibly difficult topic,’ she added.

Last week the UK government announced reforms to increase the number of sexual offences cases being brought to court, following a 60% drop since 2016.

The plans include clear actions for the police and prosecutors to roll out a new approach to investigations, reduce the number of victims withdrawing from the process, increase the volume of trials being heard, and increase convictions.

Locally it was recently announced that sexual harassment could be classified as a hate crime so that incidents can be recorded more efficiently and ways to deter it can be found.

Superintendent Alison Fossey, of the States police, said that a number of UK forces had trialled recording misogyny – defined as the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls – as a hate crime and that Jersey was hoping to follow suit.

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