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TEEN RAPES: SHOCK RISE

PUBLISHED: 17:06 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 09:46 23 August 2010

THE director of a rape counselling service says he was shocked to discover the amount of teenage victims they deal with. Family Matters, based in Wrotham Road, Gravesend, is the largest UK specialist counselling service for victims of sexual abuse. This

THE director of a rape counselling service says he was shocked to discover the amount of teenage victims they deal with.

Family Matters, based in Wrotham Road, Gravesend, is the largest UK specialist counselling service for victims of sexual abuse.

This week the organisation, which helps people from north Kent and south-east London, was awarded £2,500 from the Kent People's Trust.

Director Malcolm Gilbert welcomed the funding, granted specifically for victims between the age of 13 and 16.

He said: "In the last year (April 2007 to April 2008) we have dealt with 86 rape victims overall, a shocking 24 of those have been from the age 13 to 16. It is a very high figure and also shocked many of the therapists.

"This is why I am delighted that this money has been given to us to help with this specific vulnerable age group. It is our first specific funding for rape victims of that age group and is so valuable to us."

Family Matters is one of two organisations, the other being the East Kent Rape Line, dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse in the county.

It has 35 therapists, six staff and 10 trustees and also has a variety of phone line operators. In July 2006 they expanded to cover Ashford with a base at the Gateway Centre and in February last year agreed a partnership with Kent Police to provide therapeutic care to victims referred by the police.

Mr Gilbert added: "The vast majority of rape assailants are known to their victims and stranger rapes are still quite rare.

"But society has a much bigger problem of sex abuse and rape than we dare admit or know about."

Every three months The Kent People's Trust awards grants to community groups across the county who are helping to tackle crime.

Another group to benefit this quarter is the West Kent Women's Refuge who will use money to pay for counselling to the children who flee with their mothers to the refuge.

It will help children, some as young as four-years-old, to recover from the violence they have experienced and to help break the cycle of domestic abuse.

The trust also supported a Freedom Plus programme for women escaping relationship violence.

The West Kent Mediation service, Police Community Support Officers in Maidstone and the Canterbury Oast Trust also benefited from funding.

l To find out more about Family Matters visit wwwfamilymattersuk.org. If you are a victim of sex abuse call the hotline on 01474 537392.

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