Sunday, 26 January 2014

Better support for rape and abuse survivors in Reading - change is happening!

I've received an invitation to a launch for stakeholders and interested people ot a launch event for 'Trust House' a new support centre for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. 


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.


It's easy to take for granted that we got this, and it's really important to remember that this wouldn't have happened without a small dedicated group of people (mostly women but also some men) from across the community, led by Sinaed Gibson.


By way of illustration I thought I'd share an email I sent a year ago today to the Ministry of Justice as part of our campaign:




Dear X,
We met earlier in the month in Reading when you came to look at a bid from the Survivor’s Trust for a support centre in Reading.
 
I am emailing you as Lead Councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods and also as a campaigner for better support for rape and abuse victims in Reading
 
I would like to strongly support the bid from the Survivor’s Trust.  Berkshire, the only county without a city, has a real need for better support for rape and sexual abuse survivors.  This is particularly the case for long term counselling and support. 
 
Last year in Reading a grass roots campaign began that was initially focused on the desire for an additional SARC in Reading. This aspiration gained cross party support locally as shown by the unanimous support for a motion that I proposed to council last February:
This council notes:
The campaign for a Sexual Abuse Referral Centre (SARC) for Reading
That a SARC is a single point of contact where victims can go with or without police involvement, and have access to counselling, be referred for health services and undertake forensic examination, yielding the evidence the police will need if the victim makes a complaint then or later.
That rape is a hugely traumatic experience which can affect men, women and children and leave the victim feeling bereft and alone and very much in need of support
That the nearest SARC is in Slough and driving or taking a train to another town and having to find your way around there may put off victims of rape, or other sexual assault, from getting the support they need.
That the long term benefits of early intervention and counselling after a rape can include better mental and physical health for the victim as well as more convictions, which are sadly still very necessary.
That SARCs are funded either by the police or the NHS or acting in partnership.
This council therefore resolves to:
Encourage residents to sign the epetition on the government website:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/6794
To work with the Police and the NHS to find a way to open a SARC in Reading
Instruct the Chief Executive to write to his counterparts in Reading Police and Berkshire West PCT informing them of this motion and asking them to work with us.”
 
However as time has passed it has become more and more clear to me that the most important thing is to have long term support and an organisation that can ensure that victims in Reading, and indeed the west of Berkshire are able to access the services of a SARC where appropriate and then access ongoing support.
 
I think it’s also important to note that there is also substantial community support for the campaign for better provision for rape and abuse survivors with a fundraiser already being organised for the weekend before Valentines Day by community campaigners.  As well as the council local businesses, voluntary organisations the local papers and many individuals from Reading’s diverse community have expressed support for the campaign.
 
I hope that this email helps to strengthen the already very strong case for funding for a centre for rape and sexual abuse victims in Reading.
 
Best wishes,
Rachel
 
Rachel Eden, Councillor for Whitley ward and Lead Councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods