Cash crisis hits rape support service

A FUNDING crisis is depriving rape victims in Suffolk of vital specialist services, it was claimed last night.

A FUNDING crisis is depriving rape victims in Suffolk of vital specialist services, it was claimed last night.

In the wake of a shocking kidnap and rape of a 21-year-old in Brandon, urgent calls have been made to create a county-wide Rape Crisis centre almost a year after a unit in Ipswich was axed.

But their demands could be fruitless due to a severe shortage of funding which has seen nine similar centres close in the past five years.

Angie Conroy, policy officer for Rape Crisis, said: “We were very sorry to see the demise of the centre in Ipswich but like so many centres in the last few years, people have just thrown their hands up and surrendered over the lack of support and funding they get.

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“The people in Suffolk should at least expect one centre and it is a tragedy that Suffolk, and Bedfordshire, does not have access to these services. If there is a group of interested women in Suffolk who would like to form a steering group then they would be supported by a regional and national network.”

While Suffolk has no centre affiliated to national organisation Rape Crisis, there are neighbouring units in Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge. But strict funding criteria mean these units are unable to fully deal with Suffolk victims.

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Lindsey Read, manager of the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse, formerly the Colchester Rape Crisis Line, said: “We do get quite a few calls from victims in Suffolk who are absolutely amazed there is no centre in their county.

“This is a vital service in Colchester. There are a lot of issues specific to victims of sexual violence and they need to be able to access services that understand those issues to get the appropriate support.”

The calls come as police continue to hunt for the Brandon rapist, who abducted a woman at knifepoint on June 14 at the town's Tesco supermarket car park before carrying out a two-hour sex attack.

A spokesman for Suffolk police declined to say whether the county should have a specialist centre, but stressed victims had access to specialist facilities and staff at three victim care centres in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft.

He added: “We are committed to providing expert care and support to victims of serious sexual offences. At each centre, specially trained officers act as the main victim-focused response to serious sexual allegations. This can be an extremely traumatic and upsetting time for the victims; giving the right care and support to them at all times is incredibly important, not just to assist with an investigation, but to try to help them recover from their ordeal.”

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