Calls to Leeds rape charity’s helpline double in a year

Calls to the SARSVL helpline have doubled
Calls to the SARSVL helpline have doubled
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A charity which supports women who have been the victim of sexual violence in Leeds is appealing for the public’s help after demand for its service almost doubled.

Staff at Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL) have seen calls to a confidential helpline rise from 954 in 2014 to 1,861 – more than five a day – this year.

There has been a 13 per cent rise in women and girls contacting SARSVL for help via email, from 489 to 555.

The charity’s new advocacy service has also experienced high demand, with 30 women referred to the face-to-face support service since its launch in May.

The Office for National Statistics published figures in October showing that rapes recorded by police in England and Wales were at their highest ever level.

Independent sexual violence advocate, Alison Boydell, said high-profile campaigns and the publicity surrounding historic cases like the Jimmy Savile scandal were encouraging more women to come forward.

She said: “It’s difficult to quantify whether there has been an actual rise in incidents because we know that so few women report to the police and some women never disclose what has happened.

“It’s a positive thing that women and girls are accessing specialist support, but obviously it’s not good that sexual violence is so prevalent and ultimately that is what we want to prevent.”

SARSVL is the only charity specialising in support for sex violence victims in Leeds. It promotes survivors’ rights, and campaigns to end such crimes.

The charity has launched an online appeal to raise £1,000 over Christmas.

It says £5 would pay for a taxi for volunteers to get home after shifts; £15 would provide childcare for a woman to attend a support or advocacy session; £25 would buy materials for ‘comfort kits’ which are given to service users to help them relax; and £60 is enough to send one helpline volunteer on a course to learn how to train new helpline volunteers.

Ms Boydell added: “Our advocacy service and the helpline provide women and girls with an opportunity to get things off their chest and be listened to without judgment.

“What’s also so important to us is that we can help women and girls to feel empowered, understand that they haven’t done anything wrong, and know that they have the right to make decisions about their lives. Please help us to support the growing number of women and girls that need our services by making a donation.”

To donate visit www.justgiving.com/sarsvl/donate.