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Survivors of sexual violence in Perthshire left waiting seven months for crucial support, rape crisis charity reveals

Jen Stewart, Development Manager at RASAC, at a 2017 exhibition marking 10 years of RASAC in Perthshire.
Jen Stewart, Development Manager at RASAC, at a 2017 exhibition marking 10 years of RASAC in Perthshire.

Survivors of sexual violence in Perth and Kinross must wait at least seven months for specialist support and therapy, a rape crisis charity has revealed.

The local Rape and Sexual Abuse Clinic (RASAC) highlighted harrowing waiting times, as it turned to the public for support.

The Perth-based organisation, which has 55 survivors on its waiting list, has seen a surge in referrals. There were 163 people referred to the front-line service from April 2018 to May this year, a rise of 41%.

The group is backing a national crowdfunding campaign to secure extra financial help.

The 16 Pounds for 16 Days campaign calls on the public to donate or raise funds through challenges, sponsorship and events.

All money goes directly to supporting survivors of sexual violence through crisis centres and a national helpline.

Jen Stewart, centre manager at RASAC Perth and Kinross said: “Everyone at the clinic recognises the importance of responsive services.

“Having to tell survivors about a potential waiting time of seven months minimum is incredibly difficult.”

She said: “Whilst we do what we can to be responsive – for example, through our crisis support and regular drop-in – we know that survivors deserve improved access to much needed therapeutic support.

“Contacting us is often a difficult step to take and having done so, we believe that survivors should have access to the services they need at the time they seek it.

“Such services should be adequately funded, but we know from these waiting times that we need to do more.

“We’re reaching out to our local community and asking people to give what they can in support of rape crisis centres, and in support of survivors living locally.”

The situation is similarly stark in Fife, where the Fife Rape and Sexual Abuse Clinic (FRASAC) has seen a hugely challenging year.

The group was previously forced to close temporarily in December 2017 as a result of the waiting list, although additional funding was sourced which allowed it to employ extra support staff.

The number of referrals has continued to rise, with 73 people waiting to access support and a further 13 yet to have a first assessment.

Mairi Mcallister, assistant manager at FRASAC, said: “Because of the extra support workers, time on the list has dropped to an average of four to five months but this is still far too long for those who have been through the trauma of rape and abuse.

“In both September and October we received 31 referrals which is the highest number since we opened. It has gradually crept up and up so a few minutes ago I took the 279th referral of the year.”

Dundee’s branch of RASAC is also facing similar issues, with 83 women currently on the waiting list for one to one therapeutic support and an average waiting time of nine months for the service.

However, there is no waiting list for some of the other services on offer.

Centre manager Heather Williams said: “We are currently looking at how we deliver our therapeutic support services to be able to offer some short term support nearer the point of referral as survivors have told us about the impact waiting for support has on them.

“We are hoping that the changes we are making will reduce the waiting time to speak to someone.”

Sandy Brindley, CEO of Rape Crisis Scotland said: “The broader conversation about sustainable funding for local centres is ongoing but right now we are asking for the public to get involved with 16 Pounds for 16 Days and donate to support survivors of sexual violence, and ease the pressure on local rape crisis centres.”

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