Protecting women's services

EVAW Briefing - Survivors’ Rights: The UK’s new legal responsibilities to provide specialist support for women and girls who have experienced violence


Specialist support services are essential for helping women and girls flee violence and rebuild their lives. Access to such services is a right for women and girls in the UK when suffering domestic violence or rape, when at risk of forced marriage or FGM, when trafficked or subject to abuse related to prostitution, and all other forms of gender based violence.


Despite these rights, and while increasing numbers of survivors are seeking support, women and girls across the UK still face a ‘postcode lottery’ when trying to access specialist services due to funding cuts and competitive tendering. As women have said:

“There should be guaranteed local funding for women’s support services, they are all fighting for funding when they are providing so many good services, not just for women but for the family and the community.”

“More BME refuges need to be available for women; some women will stay in violent situations rather than go to a generic service. BME women’s services are really important; you need someone who understands your culture who is female.”

“If I didn’t have here [rape crisis] to come to, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to go to court, and I don’t think I’d be sitting here today because I used to be very suicidal. Organisations like this that provide counselling and support are saving lives, they rehabilitated me.”

The EVAW Coaltion has published a new Briefing Paper on the rights of women and girls to access specialist support when they have suffered or are at risk of abuse, which cites two imminent and very significant new legal obligations on the UK: the EU Victims Directive (Directive 2012/29/EU) which will come into force in the UK in November 2015 and the Istanbul Convention (the ‘European Convention on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence’) which the UK has signed and is committed to ratifying soon. The briefing provides recommendations for the Westminster and devolved Governments across the UK to make these rights clear and easy to access by (1) legislating to make the requirement to provide specialist support services statutory and (2) urgently re-examining competitive tendering processes and addressing poor understanding of equality obligations among those who commission local services.


EVAW has also written to written to Communities Secretary Greg Clark MP calling on the UK Government to act to make women and girls’ rights a reality.


Previous EVAW campaigning on women’s services


General Election 2015 - asking Party Leaders to commit to Women's Safety

Local elections 2013 & 2014 - asking candidates to take the #WomensSafetyPledge

Police and Crime Commissioners 2012 – asking candidates to make violence against women and girls a priority


Resources on women's services


Survivors’ Rights: The UK’s new legal responsibilities to provide specialist support for women and girls who have experienced violence, EVAW, 2015

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women's UK Country report, UN 2015

A Growing Crisis of Unmet Need: What the figures alone don't show you, Women's Aid 2013

Imkaan Accredited Quality Standards for working with black and minority ethnic women and girls and harmful practices: Forced marriage, FGM and ‘Honour-based’ violence, Imkaan

Measuring the impact of cuts in public expenditure on the provision of services to prevent violence against women and girls, Professor Sylvia Walby and Jude Towers, 2012

The impact of changes in commissioning and funding of women-only services Equality and Human Rights Commission 2012

Scottish Women's Aid Report on funding of services

Vital Statistics 2 R K Thiara & S Roy, Imkaan 2012

Women's Aid Survey 2011 Women's Aid England, March 2011

TUC Women and the Cuts Toolkit TUC and Coventry Women's Voices 2011

Using Equalities Legislation to Defend Women's Services: A Practical Toolkit for the Women's Aid movement in Wales, Welsh Women's Aid

'Journey Towards Safety', Ashiana, November 2011

'Hear and Now: Women in the criminal justice system making changes in their lives, Women in Prison, 2011

Map of Gaps II: The postcode lottery of Violence Against Women support services in Britain, EVAW, 2009

Still We Rise: Report from WNC Focus Groups to inform the Cross-Government Consultation “Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls”, Women’s National Commission, 2009

Map of Gaps: The Postcode Lottery of Violence Against Women Support Services, EVAW, 2007