It’s heart-breaking and infuriating that, for the first time, we are being forced to turn women away from our rape counselling services.
We know that reported rapes have increased in London by a shocking 20% over the last year. On average 11 women are raped or sexually assaulted every week in every London borough. But the funding we receive to provide our services is dwindling. It just doesn’t add up.
We have now had to close counselling waiting lists as the average waiting time is already 12 months in many London boroughs. Imagine having to wait a year or more after you’ve been assaulted, living day in day out with fear and flashbacks, before you get to see a specialist who can help you process horrific trauma and move forward. Every women is unique and each counselling journey is tailored to her own needs. One woman who had experience sexual violence and managed to get counselling with Solace said:
“Facing your past, head on, is very hard – especially when the memories are so painful. The memories can eat you up inside and it’s hard to break away. Without counselling, the distress would have consumed me totally.”
It’s heart-breaking because we know the courage it takes to pick up the phone and ask for help to cope and recover from sexual assault and rape. Women tell us about the life-changing effects of counselling that allow them to continue living; no longer being consumed by what happened, but finding freedom again. One of the women we supported summed it up:
“In my final year of university my world stopped I was brutally and horrifically sexually assaulted. Solace is a charity who helped save me from drowning in an unspoken world, a lonely dreadful place.”
It’s Infuriating because with more funding we could help put an end to women suffering in silence. The tide is certainly turning and powerful campaigns and movements are giving women a voice and the confidence to come forward. Of course naming what has happened is a huge step, but then what? Speaking out, whether that’s by reporting to the police, sharing it with a friend or family member or joining in a campaign like #Metoo, often leads women to seek specialist 1-1 support.
Solace already has 15 specialist sexual violence therapists, and provides 3000 hours of rape counselling over the year. We’re seeing more than 650 women for counselling a year, but there are so many more women on our waiting list – at this very moment we have 170 women waiting for that call to say they can start their counselling. Self-harm, enduring mental and physical health problems, and even suicide is not uncommon among women who haven’t had help after experience sexual violence.
“I came to Solace completely frozen in time, dead on the inside like a lifeless doll. Week after week a little bit of me came back to life.”
We refuse to wait, sit by and tell women that the support isn’t there for them – it’s unacceptable and dangerous. But we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we’ve launched ‘Stand Together with Naomi’.
Naomi represents the survivors who use our life-saving services every day. Naomi was raped by a colleague after an away day company party. Like so many women she didn’t tell anyone at the time because everyone had been drinking; she told herself no one would believe her, that it “wasn’t that bad”. The man that raped her was in a more senior role so she feared the repercussions to her career. It soon became clear to Naomi that she wasn’t coping and found herself unable to focus, feeling anxious and fearful and was drinking more and more to blot out what had happened. She decided not to report the assault to the police but knew she needed to talk to someone and get help. She was able to access counselling and confront the emotional pain she was experiencing, as well as understand how she responded to the trauma and the silence that surrounded the attack.
Naomi found Solace and got the help she needed to heal. But many women don’t.
We aim to raise £50,000 so we don’t have to turn another woman away.