A new rape crisis centre is to open in Hackney with a grant of £300,000 from the Mayor of London’s office.
The grant has been given following a pledge made by Boris Johnson during his election campaign in 2008.
The Nia project – an organisation that offers support to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence – has been granted the money to establish the new East London Rape Crisis Centre. It will have two centres for face-to-face counselling – one in Hackney and one in Redbridge – which are expected to open within the next three weeks.
Diane Abbott, the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP and Shadow Minister for Public Health, welcomed the announcement: “I am pleased that Boris has kept his promise and has opened a crisis service here in Hackney.”
Ms. Abbott had put continued pressure on Mr. Johnson to provide more funding for rape crisis centres.
Until this year, the only specific centre for counselling victims of rape and sexual abuse for the whole of London was in Croydon, which meant long travelling distances for some. The new centre is part of a plan by Mr Johnson to create extra facilities in other parts of London.
In March Ms Abbott appealed to the Mayor for a Hackney-based centre, highlighting the worryingly high levels of gang rape in the borough.
“With incidences of gang rape in my constituency rising to appalling levels, I feel there is an urgent need for a centre to be based here in Hackney where gang rape is a real issue. Many gang rapes are carried out by criminal gangs which means victims are often reluctant to go to the police.”
Counsellors who have received special training for dealing with victims of sexual violence will hold 10 sessions a week in Hackney and a further 15 in Redbridge. An advocacy service will also be offered with survivors of abuse being supported by counsellors when dealing with the practical issues that follow abuse – reporting the crime to police or accessing housing services, for example.
The new centre will cater for both men and women aged 14 and over, and is committed to serving the diverse communities of East London.
Jan Buss, Head of Advocacy and Training at the Nia project, said: “We will be using interpreters – both on the helpline and with the counsellors – and will try to recruit our counsellors and service workers from a wide ethnic base.”
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