Recovery and healing are an essential part of justice
The response to women and girls experiencing abuse in the UK and around the world has emerged from grassroots groups and individuals responding to the needs of women and girls.
We have built refuges for women and their children needing to flee violent men, in empty and abandoned houses. We have created rape counselling, which is woman-centred and never blames the survivor, in Rape Crisis centres. BME women have created support ‘by and for’ BME women based on our direct understanding of the dynamics of abuse different women face. We have sought out women in immigration detention who have been trafficked and built legal advocacy and therapeutic support tailored to their needs. We know what support women who have undergone FGM need and the best way to provide it.
These needs do not always fit easily into what we expect from the police, our health service, our schools or other public services. But when women experience violence because we are women, we have a right to support which helps us recover.
More women and girls than ever are seeking support
In the UK, especially since the Jimmy Savile revelations were uncovered in 2012, alongside multiple prosecutions of men for abusing women and girls alone and in groups, there has been a significant increase in survivors of violence seeking support for both recent and non-recent abuse.
This has exposed not only the patchwork of services available to survivors around the UK, but also the strain on existing services, who are often unable to keep up with demand.
Women-led services are essential local experts & critical partners for the long term prevention of abuse
All over the UK, on any day of the week, women led support services are working 24 hours to:
- provide emergency accommodation for women and children fleeing violent partners
- counsel survivors of sexual abuse in childhood
- support teenage girls and young women fearing forced marriage
- help women who want to get out of prostitution to exit by looking at all their needs
- give legal advice and personal support to women seeking asylum or in immigration detention following gender based violence
and much, much more.
But this is not all of our work. Our knowledge and ‘frontline’ experience means we are often the best local experts on how and why abuse happens and what can be done about it – so we are called on to provide training for police, health workers, teachers and others. We run interventions on sexual consent, FGM and forced marriage in schools. We advice police and crime commissioners, as well as health commissioner and local councils on their community’s likely needs and how to meet them.
Support services are at risk – but support is a right
Cuts and the pressures involved in ‘competitive tendering’ at local level (when local councils open a contract for running refuge services to a bidding process, much as they do for waste management or libraries for example) are putting women’s specialist support services under enormous pressure and many have closed or reduced in size since 2011. Just as demand has been increasing.
If critical women’s support services, which have been built up over decades, are lost, not only will women and children potentially be put at risk, but we will also lose the expertise in those services which local communities need if they are to end VAWG.
The right to support is established in UK and international law. The Human Rights Act and the Equality Act say that women’s right to live free from discrimination and harassment mean we must be able to access help when we need it. EVAW supports the IC Change campaign for the UK to ratfy urgently the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and girls which sets out the best standard yet of guaranteed support during and after abuse.
We aim to tell the stories of our support services and what action is needed to keep them open and at the heart of the push to end VAWG on these pages.