Belfast Telegraph

Keira Knightley and Emma Watson welcome £200k grant to put Northern Ireland rape crisis centre back in operation after 12 years

By Claire Williamson

A £200k grant to fund the setting up of a rape crisis centre in Northern Ireland has been welcomed by Hollywood stars and activists Keira Knightley and Emma Watson.

The Justice and Equality Fund, set up by British celebrities as a result of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements, awarded the funding to Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland, as part of £1,027,699 in grants to seven women's organisations across the UK which help women who have suffered sexual harassment and abuse.

The funding which will help to re-establish the rape crisis service in Northern Ireland after a 12-year gap has been hailed as a "huge step forward".

Actress Emma Watson said it was a "dire situation" that victims of sexual violence and abuse here had been without it for so long - with both stars calling for continued support and funding for it.

The money will be used to fund the newly-established rape crisis service in Northern Ireland, which is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year.

Earlier this year a number of victims' groups came together to announce their intention to re-establish a regional rape crisis service.

Rape Crisis NI is a partnership between Women's Aid Federation NI, sexual violence charity Nexus, men's charity Men's Advisory Project, Victim Support NI and women's sector organisations including Women's Support Network.

Once up and running, the rape crisis service will work alongside Northern Ireland's national 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline, which is also managed by Women's Aid.

Time's Up UK catalyst and donor to the Justice and Equality Fund, Keira Knightley said: "I'm so excited to see the results of the journey we've been on to set up the Justice and Equality Fund.

"To be able to fund the first rape crisis service provision in Northern Ireland for 12 years feels like a huge step forward.

"I hope we can continue to raise funds to support more of the frontline organisations doing such critical work with women and girls across the UK."

Ms Watson, who made a £1m donation to the fund earlier this year, said: "Following funding cuts, Northern Ireland has been without a rape crisis service for the last 12 years.

"That's an incredibly dire situation, now alleviated by the tireless efforts of organisers and your donations to the JEF crowdfunder. A huge thank you to each and every member of the public, and colleagues from my own industry, who have already donated. Much more needs to be raised so please give what you can, financial support is an instrumental act of solidarity with under-resourced organisations and campaign groups.

"Time's Up UK will continue to work in unity with women's rights and equality movements to campaign for systemic change. This year is just the beginning."

Jan Melia, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said the organisation was delighted to receive the grant and to have the support of such high-profile activists.

"We are thrilled that the Justice and Equality Fund has awarded us this money to help set up the new Rape Crisis centre in Northern Ireland.

"We have 31 volunteers who are nearing the completion of their six month training to provide a service to support victims and survivors, and this grant will go a long way to help with this.

"We are also delighted that Emma Watson and Keira Knightley have shown their backing for Women's Aid and the new service and wish to thank them both for their ongoing support for women's rights."

If you have been affected by sexual violence or abuse, the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline is open 365 days a year to support all women and men.

Call the free confidential Helpline on 0808 802 1414, email 24hrsupport@dvhelpline.org, or text SUPPORT to 07797 805 839.

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