The UK government yesterday signalled a commitment to improve services for thousands of women who endure the misery of rape.
Across the country, a woman suffers a serious sexual assault on average once every ten minutes, according to Department of Health figures.
A £3.2 million action plan has been launched by the Government to improve and expand Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
Making the announcement, public health minister Anne Milton said it was important that women and children were referred to the right services: “For some, there may be only one chance to save a life.”
Every week 1,000 women are raped or subjected to attempted rape and one in four women are victims of domestic violence.
Ms Milton said violence against women and children led to poor mental health, unwanted pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections and substance misuse.
“The effects can last a lifetime and have a profound impact on the victims, and also their family and friends. The after-effects of violence can carry on for many years,” she said.
“For many victims, doctors and nurses are the first or only person they can turn to. It's critical that health professionals have the skills to identify victims of violence and offer appropriate support.
"I've seen excellent work in specialist centres, so we're making more money available to improve and expand them.”
The action plan, which responds to the work of the Taskforce on Violence Against Women and Children, includes:
- How local areas can improve communications activity to raise awareness with the public, patients and staff;
- Workforce, education and training, including working with the Royal Colleges and other organisations to see where training needs to be improved or expanded;
- Improving the quality of services, such as providing joint funding with the Home Office in 2010/11 of up to £3.2 million to improve quality of and access to Sexual Assault Referral Centres;
- Strengthening evidence and information, including looking at how emergency departments can share non-confidential information relating to violent assaults.
"Violence and abuse against women and children is such a big issue in the NHS that we must ensure that we commission appropriate services for our patients,” she said. “Voluntary sector specialist services provide valuable support and it's important to recognise their contribution.”
Professor Liz Kelly, Chair of the of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: “It is also imperative that there is funding for specialist women's services such as Rape Crisis Centres for the many victims who want this kind of support."