New centres to help rape victims
Rape and sexual assault victims will be able to seek help at four new support centres, the Government has announced.
The new centres will open next year in Reading, Avon and Somerset, Lincolnshire and central Lancashire, bringing the total to 78 across England and Wales.
The centres, which will be backed with £4 million in funding, provide specialist counselling for victims of sexual assault or rape.
Around 473,000 women and men are sexually assaulted each year, according to recent figures, with one in 20 women reported as being a victim of a serious sexual offence.
But only 54,000 sexual offences are recorded by police on average each year, which can partly be explained by victims' reluctance or fear of coming forward.
Rape Crisis (England and Wales) chairman Lee Eggleston said: "It is vital that women and girls who experience sexual violence are able to receive specialised support when and where they need it in order to be able to rebuild and move forward with their lives.
"In Lincolnshire and the four authority areas it will support there just has not been support available to survivors or at best, they have had to travel to the next county or metropolitan area, with some journeys taking hours, in order to get the help they need."
Since the 2010 coalition agreement, nine new centres have opened in Northumbria, Leeds, Southend, Suffolk and mid-Wales Hereford, Devon, Dorset and Trafford.
A total of 65 were in place prior to 2010, all of which will receive continued funding.
Victims' minister Helen Grant said: "I want more victims of rape or sexual assault to come forward and get the specialist help they need to recover from these sickening crimes."