By Andy Hirst
A Huddersfield charity is helping hundreds of people who have faced the trauma of rape or sexual abuse … some of it stretching back decades.
Kirklees and Calderdale Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (KCRASAC) is just a phone call away for people who are struggling to cope with what’s happened to them and can then help them to move forward with their lives. It is the only specialist service in the area.
Over the last year the charity’s services have helped 1,005 survivors and 635 of them contacted the charity directly themselves. Since April 2020 almost 9,500 people have contacted KCRASAC, if only for an anonymous chat on their helpline or seeking more information.
Leanne Sykes from KCRASAC said: “It shows there is a big need for our services and they will be many more people out there who need our help but possibly don’t even know we exist. We have had people come to us who are suicidal and can’t see how they can get through another day yet are a different person when they have been helped by us. Many feel they can live again.”
The vast majority are victims of someone known to them such as a friend, parent, grandparent, sibling, family friend, neighbour or a leader in an organisation they attend. The charity uses the word ‘survivor’ rather than victim as so much of the abuse happened in the past.
Leanne said: “Survivor is a more empowering word while victim is a word the police are more likely to use. We always think of people who contact us as someone who has been a survivor and been so strong to come through such terrible experiences.”
The charity covers Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield. It provides services including therapeutic services, help from independent sexual violence advisors and an anonymous helpline service. For adults there is a main website https://www.kcrasac.co.uk/ but also another one with a separate service for children aged from 10 with its own website and the charity has children’s specialist independent sexual violence advisors https://chyps.co.uk/
Both are packed full of advice including how people are groomed – the manipulation and tactics the perpetrator uses – and how they try to force their victim to stay silent.
Although people undergoing this trauma can contact the charity immediately, many seek help years later.
Leanne said: “This can be for all kinds of reasons – fear of not being believed, fear of not getting the outcome they hope for, fear of the judicial process.
“Also, many people simply don’t know about the service we offer and that it’s so accessible. We can support them every step of the way from their first phone call to us, through a police investigation if that’s what they choose to do and then through the court process.”
The decision whether to report the abuse to the police is always the survivor’s but Leanne said West Yorkshire Police has a policy to always investigate serious sexual assaults.
“The police have come a long way in investigating reports of sexual offences, especially non recent,” she said. “It was once a taboo subject but sexual offences such as grooming are far better known now.”
The ways the charity helps includes:
* A helpline (phone 0300 303 4787) staffed by specially trained female volunteers which offers confidential, anonymous, emotional support and lets the caller know about other services available to them. People can also email this service at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Free counselling tailored to everyone’s individual needs from age 13 upwards but can cover themes including childhood issues, abuse, relationships, bullying, coping strategies, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression plus many more.
* Independent Sexual Violence Advisors will support survivors aged 13 and above and Children’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisors will support survivors aged 10 and above, who have decided to report what’s happened to them to the police. They will liaise with the police for updates on the case, support them at court, put the survivor in contact with support groups and, if needed, talk to other agencies such as sexual health, mental health, substance misuse and housing.
* Offer Reiki sessions to survivors 18 and above by therapists who gently lay hands above non-sensitive areas of the body to channel healing energy into the client. Reiki is known to help emotional, physical and spiritual healing.
* A therapeutic group for male survivors aged 18 and above who have experienced rape and sexual abuse exploring themes such as trauma responses, grief, guilt and shame, boundaries and assertiveness. It also helps male victims of domestic abuse.
* A female group therapy and support programme that runs for 15 weeks and is for women are aged 18 and above who have experienced sexual abuse or violence. It covers dealing with feelings such as grief, guilt and fear, understanding and dealing with anger, assertiveness, the impact of pornography on society, planning the future and moving on after abuse.
* Support sessions with a one-on-one support worker so people can talk openly and explore the daily effects of any abuse they have experienced and can explore different coping methods. This is for any survivor aged 13 and above.
* Art therapy sessions as these can help people communicate and process their emotions through a creative process, rather than by simply talking. The arts can include painting, sculpture, drawing or writing and can bring a sense of mindfulness by tuning into the body. Creating art can visually represent complex emotions that sometimes are just too hard to talk about. This is for any survivor aged 13 and above.
* Young people’s support group aged 13-17 years which is a therapeutic and psychoeducational 9-week programme looking at different topics including healthy relationships, consent, coping mechanisms and many more.
* There are plans to set up drop-in sessions for non-abusing parents of survivors of sexual abuse. This will allow parents to access peer support and support from RASAC workers in order to help them process their feelings.
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.