Hollywood A-listers and women’s rights activists Keira Knightley and Emma Watson have welcomed the award of a £200,000 grant to Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland to fund a new Rape Crisis service.

Ms Knightley, star of The Pirates of the Caribbean and Love Actually, described the re-establishment of a Rape Crisis centre in Northern Ireland, after a 12 year absence, as a ‘huge step forward’.


And Emma Watson, best known for portraying Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series,  said it was a ‘dire situation’ that Northern Irish victims of sexual  violence and abuse had been without a rape crisis service for 12 years.

Both actresses also called for continued support and funding for the new service.

They were speaking out after the Justice and Equality Fund, set up as a result of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, awarded £200,000 to Women’s Aid NI, as part of £1,027,699 in grants to seven women’s organisations across the UK.

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, following the high profile Belfast rape trial, 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 ProjectVictim 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, to support all victims of rape and sexual violence.

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 celebrity 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.”

Keira Knightley, Time’s Up UK catalyst and donor to the Justice and Equality Fund, 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 £1 million 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: uk.gofundme.com/Justice-and-Equality-Fund.

“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.”

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.