Sexual assault victims are being forced to wait a year for counselling because specialist support services are struggling to cope with demand, a group of MPs has warned.
The all-party parliamentary group on sexual violence also said specific services to help victims of sexual assault are under threat because of funding cuts and a huge rise in the number of people needing help.
The number of people using Rape Crisis services increased by 17 per cent between 2017/18 and the previous year.
There were 6,355 victims on Rape Crisis waiting lists at the end of 2017/18.
The wait for counselling ranged from three to 14 months, the report added.
The MPs’ report said: "The impacts on victims and survivors who have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse and then are unable to access specialist support cannot be overstated and must not be lost sight of."
It added: "Sexual violence and abuse support services have been described as at crisis point. Need and demand for their specialist services from victims and survivors of all forms of sexual violence and abuse are at unprecedented levels and continue to rise year on year.
"It can take a lot of courage to reach out for support and services describe it as ‘agonising’ and ‘soul-destroying’ to not always be able to provide this."
Commenting on the report, Suky Kaur, head of policy at BACP, said:
"It’s frightening that such vulnerable victims are left to cope alone for so long with the psychological trauma of what they have been through.
"We know counselling can make a huge difference to people’s lives. It must be a priority to improve access to support for victims who have endured such traumatic experiences.
"We’re concerned that highly-skilled and qualified counsellors are being marginalised by some sexual assault support services, and are under-represented. More work has to be done to ensure counsellors are integral into sexual assault services, and that vital funding is available, so victims receive the right support at the right time."
To speak to a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist, visit our Find a Therapist Directory.