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Specialist Sexual Violence Counsellors

Specialist Sexual Violence Counsellors provide and co-ordinate sexual violence counselling, support and advocacy for women and teenage girls who have experienced sexual violence of any kind and who also have complex problems and needs arising from the long term effects of this violence. These issues can and often do include mental health problems, drugs and alcohol misuse, eating disorders and other self-harm etc. The project also works with survivors who have learning disabilities.

Women are primarily referred to this service from within the agency but also as self-referrals through the Rape and Sexual Abuse Helpline and Support Service. 

Due to its complex nature this work is often long-term and is largely conducted face to face with the women concerned in a mutually safe space.

Working with women around these complex issues may include undertaking safety planning, therapeutic work and supporting and advocating for women when they are dealing with the mental health services, courts, police, solicitors, housing etc. Workers also make referrals to other agencies and organisations that can provide specialist support to women around specific issues.

Comments from women who have used this support service: -

“Thank you so much for your kindness and support. I couldn’t have done it without you and you have given me great hope for the future.”

“You have given me a new outlook and way of thinking about things. You made it so easy to create a trusting relationship.”

“Thank you so much for helping me to believe in myself again. You have given me the tools that I did not know about that will help me to be the person I always wanted to be. You have taught me to love myself. You have given me back my life.”

One our Specialist Counsellor wrote the following about counselling: - 

Counselling provides a safe space for you to get to know and trust your counsellor. Building up this relationship is an important step towards enabling you to gain a clearer understanding of your situation and how you feel about it.

The counselling is not time restricted-so may be ongoing for as long as necessary, depending on your needs and circumstances. There would be regular reviews to check that the counselling is meeting your needs.

At no point will your counsellor force you to talk about anything you are not ready to. The process is very much led by your needs.

Counselling is not always an easy process and often women will feel worse before they are able to start to feel better. The counsellor is there to support you through the process but it is you that has to do the hard work, and to feel those emotions and feelings that may be very uncomfortable. The counsellor is there to support you and to help you understand what is going on for you. It is an important part of the work to acknowledge the feelings and be able to express them safely and be supported in this. For a lot of women feelings have been “unsafe” and there has been a need to suppress them. Unfortunately this can lead to further health issues, such as depression. It may also lead to unhealthy coping strategies, such as self harm or alcohol dependency for example. 

Counselling is a way in which to examine, recognise, express and understand the various emotions you have so that you can create a healthier life for yourself, with healthier coping strategies.

Counselling will not make the abuse go away, nor will it take away the memories of it. It will enable you to work through your thoughts and feelings so that you can accept what happened and live with it as part of your life, without being overwhelmed by it.

Counselling can be: emotional, fun, supportive, frustrating, life-changing, hard work, engaging, playful and full of tears and/or laughter. It may be some or all of these, and a lot more besides.