A CHARITY providing support to victim's of sexual abuse has called for increased measures to help support rape victims.

Darlington and County Durham's Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre (RSACC) called for 'radical change' after a Government review found years of plunging conviction levels for sexual offenders.

The Government promised to undertake a “system and culture change” which will include focusing more on the behaviour of the suspect than the accuser.

Reacting to the review, Isabel Owens, deputy chief executive of RSACC, said: "Our overall impression is that we're disappointed that the recommendations in it aren't more radical and aren't moving fast enough to mean that there will be real, radical change that's needed for survivors right now.

"This week, we've been working with 300 survivors and our fear is that the review won't have the impact for these survivors let alone the hundreds and thousands of survivors that have gone before them and been failed."

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The latest Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures for 2019-20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales last year – the lowest level since records began, and down from 1,925 the previous year, despite reports of adult rape to police almost doubling since 2015-16.

There are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year, but only 1.6 per cent of reported cases results in a charge.

Ms Owens added: "The low prosecution rate makes it really hard for survivors to come forward.

"We know that less than 15 per cent of survivors will ever report their offence to the police and I think there's a real fear from survivors that they won't be believed by the criminal justice system.

"We need radical change within the criminal justice system. Instead of re-traumatising survivors we need to provide real support to them.

"We know from working with survivors it can be a really traumatising process that takes an awful long time.

"We want to see a change that recognises the trauma they're going through, and we need a system that properly funds support for survivors so they got specialist support in a timely way,"

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Earlier this year, RSACC launched a campaign amid fears it is facing an explosion of referrals when lockdown ends.

And the charity is anticipating a rise in referrals with women who have been affected by sexual violence both during the pandemic and in the past.

"In the very first six months of the pandemic we saw a decrease in our service which is very worrying," Ms Owens said.

"We feel that was because survivors felt they were not in a safe place to access support.

"But now, over the last six months, we've seen a real increase and have found that survivors who couldn't access the support are now coming forward."

In response, the Government pledged a raft of measures intended to see the volume of allegations referred by the police to the CPS, the number of suspects charged, and the amount of cases reaching court return to 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament.

Measures include reducing cross-examination of victims in court by conducting pre-recorded interviews, a nationwide recognition that only evidence about the complainant that is pertinent to the case should be used, and a new approach to investigations.

  • A support helpline – 0300 222 5730 – is open Monday – Thursday 10am-2pm and Tuesday and Thursday 6.30pm-9pm. It is anonymous and confidential and available to any survivor who has been directly or indirectly affected by sexual violence or domestic abuse.
  • Other online help is available by visiting rsacc-thecentre.org.uk