Equality and human rights commission/ End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights coalition

Urgent action needed for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights affected by violence

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights and the coalition, End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (EVAW), are calling on the government and local authorities to provide more support for the 3 million Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the UK who experience violence every year. In addition, there are also untold numbers who have experienced abuse in the past and urgently need support.

The Commission and EVAW are today publishing a report called Map of Gaps. It shows, in a series of facts, figures and maps, the huge gaps in service provision for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who need to access these vital support services. The report highlights a 'postcode lottery,' with some areas in the UK being reasonably well served, and others having no services at all. This leaves thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights without such services as rape crisis centres and refuges for victims of domestic violence.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, says:

'There is a crisis of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights which as a society we need to address.'

'The figures speak for themselves: one in ten Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights will be a victim of violence in the UK this year. Every single one of us knows a woman, be this a sister, a neighbour, a friend, who has first-hand experience of this violence.'

'These Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights need a safe environment, somewhere they can go and feel protected, someone to talk to and a place to rebuild their lives. At the moment, though, they face the terrifying prospect that they are unlikely to be able to access help in their darkest hour.'

Liz Kelly, Chair of End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, says:

Support services for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who have experienced violence are essential for their access to safety, justice and the ability to move on. At present a third of local authorities across the UK have no specialised support service. Most Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the UK have no access to a rape crisis centre and fewer than one quarter of local authorities have any sexual violence service at all. In recent years, services across the UK have been closing at an alarming rate.

In Scotland, where the government is developing a strategic approach to addressing violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, the situation is more positive. There is a commitment to funding for specialised services. This means that services are distributed more equally and there has been an expansion in rape crisis centre provision.

· A third of local authorities across the UK have no specialised VAW support
service.
· Most Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the UK have no access to a Rape Crisis Centre and fewer than one quarter of local authorities have any sexual violence service at all.
· A very small proportion of the UK is covered by existing Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
· Fewer than 1 in 10 of local authorities have specialised services for BME Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights which would address forced marriage, female genital mutilation and crimes in the name of honour, as well as other forms of violence.

According to the UN, violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (VAW) is ‘any act of gender-based
violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects
Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights disproportionately.’ VAW in the UK includes: Rape and sexual assault; domestic violence; forced marriage; sexual harassment and stalking; trafficking and sexual exploitation; crimes in the name of honour; and female genital mutilation.

Andrea (not her real name): a case study

“I was raped when I was 16 and suffered lots of physical injuries. I was taken immediately to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in London where I was medically examined. The way they treated me at the SARC was really good. The evidence they took was used in court and helped to get the attacker convicted. I think these are vital services that all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights should have access to.

I was offered counselling by a generic support service but I didn’t want this – what I would have liked would have been to have talked to a specialist service like a Rape Crisis Centre or someone who had been through the same thing as me."

The postcode lottery

Five areas are particularly underserved: The East of England; London; Northern Ireland; the North West; and the South East. In three cases these are regions with the largest percentages of population; in two there are smaller populations but extensive rural areas.
Very few areas can claim to have sufficient service provision to meet the needs of their female population who have recently suffered violence. The nine areas with the most extensive provision are: Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Hammersmith & Fulham, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The legal aspect

There is also a legal aspect to the lack of service provision. Like all public bodies in Britain, local authorities and government departments are legally obliged under the Gender Equality Duty to promote equality between Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and men. In failing to provide adequate services for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who have experienced violence, they may be acting unlawfully. The Commission considers this issue to be a key test against which it will judge British government departments and local authorities in assessing how they meet their legal obligations. Failure to comply with the legislation on gender equality may result in legal action being undertaken by the Commission.'It is time to plug the gaps – it is simply too costly to continue with the current situation. Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights deserve access to quality support services. We are calling for the Government and local authorities to provide more funding to stem the tide of closures. They also need to secure the future of services – some of which have been supporting Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights for over three decades.'

To find out more about End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights:

http://www.endviolenceagainstWomen's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.org.uk

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