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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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Stephen Fry and Derren Brown help fight to save Cumbria's rape crisis service

The fight is on to save Cumbria Rape Crisis from closure.

Rape crisis logo

Related: Rape Crisis Cumbria: Help save at-risk critical lifeline

More than £3,000 was raised in the first full day of campaigning as messages of support were sent to embattled staff and volunteers.

Several substantial donations have already been made following the News & Star’s calls to ensure a lifeline for hundreds of victims of rape and sexual violence is not lost.

People touched by the charity’s plight have been rallying support, urging others to give what they can and lobbying influential figures.

There were tearful scenes at the organisation’s annual general meeting yesterday as the challenge it faces – to raise £25,000 by November 15 or close – was starkly set out. Those fighting for its survival have been moved by the swift response to the plea for help, to ensure a vital service is not lost in a county which has one of the country’s worst records.

High-profile backing has come in response to social network tweets from @newsandstar.

Renowned illusionist Derren Brown highlighted the News & Star’s front page from Thursday, telling his near 1.7 million followers: “A story worth spreading awareness of.”

International concert pianist James Rhodes told his followers: “This is terribly important. Please donate if you can.”

Actor Stephen Fry showed his support by sending that message to his 6.3 million followers.

Grace Dent, the Carlisle journalist who is a columnist on The Independent, wrote: “Can anyone help save Carlisle’s Rape Crisis centre? Please.”

Among those quick to donate cash was concerned reader Ian Richardson, who walked into our city centre offices and handed over £300.

North Cumbrian company Solway Renewables, which installs free electric car charging points, has promised to donate £10 to Cumbria Rape Crisis for every job it completes.

Cumbria county councillor Heidi Halliday has lobbied the authority’s leader, Stewart Young, county crime commissioner Richard Rhodes and the chief executive of Tesco, urging them to donate.

Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover also took to Twitter, saying he’d donated and urging others to do the same.

At Cumbria Rape Crisis’ annual general meeting in Cockermouth, centre manager Carol Swainson told trustees of the response they were now getting.

“It is nice to know we have got support out there. This is all because of the News & Star,” she said.

Trustees were told the charity would have to be wound up unless it can find £25,000 to keep it ticking over. This would buy it time to lobby for new financial support. It needs £150,000 for another year of providing critical support.

Board chairman Carol Tindall, who’s been involved in the group for 26 years, fought back tears as she detailed the cash crisis.

She said: “I have been involved with Rape Crisis for all of the time it has been a charity. I have been involved since it started as part of a steering group.

“I had been through a series of personal experiences that made me feel there needed to be something there for people.”

She praised all those who had worked for and supported the centre over the years.

Treasurer Paul Butler added: “I can only say that it has been an honour and a privilege to work with some of the volunteers and staff we have had over the years.”

The charity made a loss of £32,765 in the last financial year down from more than £40,000 the year before. Mr Butler explained the charity has taken on a wider range of services in recent years, which has led to its current financial situation.

One woman at the meeting told the News & Star how Rape Crisis had helped her recover from trauma she’s been through, describing its work as “absolutely fantastic”.

She called for the centre to be saved and said: “We have not done wrong, we have had wrong done to us.”

Rebecca Todd, an independent sexual violence adviser, said support included counselling, advice on rehoming and benefits and help on investigating sexually transmitted infections.

Mrs Todd also pointed out that 14 per cent of the centre’s clients were men, saying most were heterosexual but had been abused by other males.

“It is very traumatic for them,” she said.

She added that many of her clients had offered their support to keep the centre going and thanked them for this.

The charity supports three workers, backed by 26 volunteers. Its helpline number is 01900 829729.

To donate to the charity, go to  www.westcumbriarapecrisis.co.uk and use the donate button at the bottom of the page.

Have your say

This whole situation is crap and Puting people's recovery back. Support is being taken away due to the pressure of funding with no notice. This has personally left me feeling suicidal and distraught. As for the clients who are telling their stories to newspapers I dread to think how they are feeling.

Posted by heidi on 6 November 2013 at 22:43

Would like to say a huge well done to t 26 volunteers who help this service. What incredible people everyone of them are and what a worthwhile thing they are doing. Hope this service continues.

Posted by annonymous on 29 October 2013 at 00:19

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