What is a specialist service?

We have mapped services that work primarily on violence against women and that provide significant support to female victims/survivors within the boundary of the local authority. Specialised violence against women services have created safe places for women to name the abuse, be believed and repair the harms that violence causes. The women’s voluntary sector has over 30 years experience of developing and running specialised services for women who have experienced violence, such as rape crisis centres and domestic violence services.

Statutory services, such as Specialist Domestic Violence Courts and Sexual Assault Referral Centres, usually support women who report the violence to the police or authorities. Voluntary sector services such as Rape Crisis Centres, refuges, domestic violence outreach projects, services for ethnic minority women and trafficking services provide support to women who have experienced abuse recently, as well as in the past or as a child. They are essential life-lines that can take the form of counselling, information and advice, advocacy, shelter, self-help, and routes to employment or training. Their focus is solely to support women in overcoming the impacts of the violence they have experienced.

Why do women need specialised services?

Women are most commonly abused by someone they know, sometimes in private, often on multiple occasions and with sexualised elements. Only a minority of women report the violence, so they need alternative routes of support, in particular alternatives to the criminal justice system.

Many women who have experienced violence are reluctant to seek help. It wasn't so long ago that they were unlikely to be believed and even blamed. Since they are most commonly abused by someone they know, this makes telling anyone else, and especially reporting to the police, complicated. Insecure immigration status, involvement in prostitution, disability, mental health issues or substance misuse both make women more vulnerable to victimisation and less likely to speak out. Women from particular communities, such as ethnic minority women and refugee communities, older women and disabled women, face particular barriers to reporting as well as seeking support and have particular needs and so require dedicated services.

So that women are not discouraged from seeking help and in order to provide real and effective help, different services are tailored to address the specific issues of different forms of violence. Similarly, there must be a range of services and support , including through helplines, shelters, advocacy and counselling, that take sinto account the needs of various different groups.

For all these reasons it is vital to ensure that every woman in Britain has equal access to a diverse range of services offered in diverse ways in every region.

Go to the maps section to see how specialised services are currently mapped across Britain.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2014