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Just tell someone

Avon and Somerset Police recieve an average of three reports of rape every day. The police will always believe a victim of rape and we take every case seriously. However, we understand that talking to the police can be hard to do. If you don’t want to speak to the police please speak to someone; a friend, a family member or an independent support organisation.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, no matter what the circumstances or who was involved, remember that it wasn’t your fault.

Here are some people who might be able to help:

Sue-itsnotokHi, i'm Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset.

How do you support victims?

While I don’t personally provide support to victims, in my role as PCC I work hard to make sure that the Police and other partners are providing the very best services for victims. I feel passionately about safeguarding those who are most vulnerable and those who are victims of some of the most serious and intrusive crimes.  That’s why I’ve made ‘protecting the most vulnerable from harm’ the most important priority in my Police and Crime Plan.  Those who have been sexually abused or have experienced sexual violence must be our priority.  We owe it to them to protect them, hear them and give them a voice because for far too long they have been unheard. Having this as a priority means that I can hold the Chief Constable to account for the policing service delivered in Avon and Somerset.

In my first term as PCC, I prioritised tackling domestic and sexual abuse as I was very aware these crimes were under-reported and that the service victims were receiving was not good enough.  While awareness and reporting is improving, we still face challenges in effectively delivering support to victims.  Under this new priority I will continue to be a fierce advocate for victims.

I am also responsible for commissioning victim services locally across Avon and Somerset. I hold commissioning budget and I allocate my resources according to my priorities.  This means that I directly fund a number of sexual abuse, sexual violence and child sexual abuse support services including all those mentioned today. I have been privileged to work with the specialist sexual violence sector throughout my time as PCC and am forever grateful for the insight and inspiration they give me.

What would you say to a victim thinking of getting in touch?

If you are a victim of sexual abuse or violence, or you suspect someone you know is, please tell someone.  There are many fantastic support services out there that can help - you are not alone.  If you do choose to report to the police, please know you will be listened to, believed and taken seriously.

How did you get involved in this line of work?

As well as 25 years of being a Director of the successful Mountstevens Bakeries, I served as a Magistrate on the Bristol Youth, Family and Adult benches for 15 years. I was Vice-Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol Prison and I worked as an independent member of the Police Authority. I have always had a real interest in the Criminal Justice System and in how victims are supported by the service.  It was this, coupled with my passion for representing the voice of the local communities of Avon and Somerset in policing, which led to me putting myself forward for the role of PCC. I was first elected in 2012 and then re-elected in 2016.

Why are you so passionate about supporting victims?

While campaigning to be your PCC, local people told me of their experiences as victims, with the police and with the criminal justice system.   The people I met and the emails I received still remind me every day why I put myself forward for this role. I am passionate because I truly believe that we can do better. I value the feedback I receive about the police and other services and treat is very much as a gift. As your PCC, I strive to ensure all victims have access to the level of support they need to help put them back in control if they’ve been a victim of crime.  We need to turn victims into survivors, by helping them cope and then recover from what happened. This is why I am determined to put victims at the heart of everything we do.  I passionately believe that the victim is never to blame and that there is no excuse for abuse. We, as a society need to stand up to this offending and that is why I am supporting #itsnotok

 

Debbie-NaylorHi my name is Debbie Naylor and I manage the Safelink Service. I have worked as part of Safelink since it started in 2009 and I currently have a team of eight staff.  

What support services can Safelink offer and to who?

Safelink provides the ISVA service. An ISVA is a Sexual Violence Advisor. We are independent of any other service and cover the whole of Avon and Somerset.

We support men, women and children of any age; there is no upper or lower age limit. Safelink can help whether you want to report to the police or not.

We can offer you a safe place to talk about what happened to you and give you confidential advice. We can offer you practical support too. Most importantly...we will help you to understand that it was not your fault.

How can victims get in contact with Safe Link?

You can call Safelink on 0333 323 1543 or email: Safe.Link@safelinksupport.co.uk. Our website is www.safelinksupport.uk            

What would you say to a victim thinking of getting in touch?

We will always believe you and support you to cope with what has happened. We can help you decide on what to do next and support you as you think about your future.

How did you get involved in this line of work?

My background is in domestic violence as part of Next Link. I became the first Independent Sexual Violence Advisor in Avon and Somerset in February 2009.

Why are you so passionate about supporting victims?

I feel incredibly humbled to be able to work with people who have been through such an awful experience.

Click here to hear from Phoebe who has been supported by Safe Link 

 

Rowan-SARSAS

Hi, I’m Rowan Miller, Director of SARSAS.

What support services can SARSAS offer and to who?

SARSAS are a specialist support service for survivors of rape and sexual abuse across Bristol, B&NES, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire. We offer free, confidential, specialist support for survivors over the age of 13 who have been raped or sexually abused at any time in their lives. This is regardless of whether or not they choose to report. The support we offer consists of emotional and practical support, a freephone helpline, E support, 1-1 support by phone or face to face, specialist counselling, information and support resources

How can victims get in contact with SARSAS?

Our Women and Girls helpline 0808 801 0456 is open Mondays & Fridays 11am – 2pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays 6pm – 8.30pm and the Men and Boys helpline 0808 801 0464 is open Monday 11am - 2pm & Tuesday 6pm - 8:30pm. You can contact our email support on support@sarsas.org.uk

What would you say to a victim thinking of getting in touch?

We are here to listen to you and believe you 100%. We will never judge or doubt you. We know it can be very hard to take that first step and call; we respect this and will never push you into talking about anything you do not want to. We are here to help you explore your thoughts, feelings and what options you might have.

How did you get involved in this line of work?

Through years of working with survivors and vulnerable adults in the charity sector across England and Wales.

Why are you so passionate about supporting victims?

Without help, many survivors of rape and sexual abuse face real challenges in their lives like depression, anxiety and poor mental health. At SARSAS, we believe that by supporting and standing alongside survivors, we can help them feel less alone and better able to cope with what has happened to them. We believe that all survivors deserve this support.

Do you have any survivor stories which stick in your memory?

Many of the survivors we have worked with stick in our memory and everyone’s experience is different.  I like to remember some of the positive feedback we have received from our survivors at the end of their support with us. “Thank you for being part of an amazing organisation that has been a huge part of my life for the last 17 months. I believe having my face to face meetings and over the phone support had a big impact on how I managed to stay strong and believe in myself. We all have choices in life, and for me, carrying the hurt and pain of childhood abuse was slowly killing me. I am determined to move forward with my life to new and better things and am glad to know other women going through what I have are continuing to receive the best support possible.”

Click here to hear from survivor's supported by SARSAS

Debbie-B Hi, i'm Debbie Burunou, The Bridge, SARC Manager.

What support services can The Bridge offer and to who?

The Bridge is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre.  Anyone who has been affected by sexual assault or sexual harm can contact us.  Our services are free and confidential and are available 24/7 365 days a year.  The Bridge is the only place where forensic examinations take place in Avon & Somerset. Samples can either be given to the police to check for DNA or stored at the Bridge, giving the client time to think about what they would like to do moving forward.  The evidence is secure and can be given to the police at a later stage should the client later decide to report to the police. No one needs to suffer in silence.  The Bridge can help.  The Bridge also offers emotional, medical and physiological support.  Our free, specialist counselling service is available at various venues across the region and can be accessed whether or not a client has had a forensic medical.  We also offer counselling for the loved one of people who have experienced sexual harm.

How can victims get in contact with The Bridge?

Clients can contact us directly 24/7 on 0117 3426999 or using contact details on our website www.thebridgecanhelp.org.  A referral can be made by a 3rd party (e.g. GP) or the person can call us directly for help and advice.

What would you say to a victim thinking of getting in touch?

Please do contact us – you do not have to give us any identifying information if you do not wish to do so – don’t suffer in silence, we can help you.  Taking that first step of calling us is the first step in your journey of recovery.  I can’t promise it will easy, but I can promise we will help you every step of the way, whatever your journey is.

How did you get involved in this line of work?

Having spent almost a quarter of a century being at the end of the process – being involved in Crown Court in the prosecution of rapists - I always met the victim at the end of that process.  The opportunity to now work with people at the beginning of that process was a real challenge that I was ready to take. It has proven to be the most rewarding work I have ever been involved in.  I am privileged to work with a wonderful team who always put the needs of the clients at the heart of everything they do.

Why are you so passionate about supporting victims?

Rape is indiscriminate – it can happen to anyone.  It is never ever the victims fault. Being able to support a person at that acute stage is humbling. The resilience of the human spirit never fails to amaze me.

Do you have any survivor stories which stick in your memory?

A man who came to The Bridge with his young daughter who had been raped:  I found him in the corridor crying – he was sobbing that as a Dad it was his job to protect his child and he felt he had failed.  It made me really understand the complexity of sexual assault – it doesn’t just affect the person who was assaulted, but ripples through every part of their lives – their parents, their friends, their work and so on.  That man unwittingly sowed the seed that led to me devising a parent and partner service for close relatives of people who have been assault.  We were helped in getting it off the ground by the generosity of former Bridge clients and other organisations who helped raise some funding for us.  Since its launch in January 2014, we have helped 100s of loved ones through their own journeys following a disclosure of sexual harm to someone close to them.

  

LighthouseHi, we're Kat Miller, Victim & Witness Care Officer (VWCO) and Stevie Skeates, Acting Team Leader are both Specialised Point of Contact for Rape & Serious Sexual Offences (SPOC’s) at Lighthouse Bristol based in The Bridewell.

What support services can Lighthouse offer and to who?

Lighthouse Victim & Witness Care officers support victims that have reported a crime to the police at both pre charge and post charge stage. After a contact discussion with the officer in charge (OIC) Lighthouse can call the victim to discuss their support needs. With the victims permission Lighthouse will then make referrals to the relevant partner agencies.  When a case proceeds to court, Lighthouse will liaise with the victim, the OIC and any agencies that are supporting the victim with updates of each court hearing. If the victim is required to attend court to give evidence, Lighthouse will ensure that support is in place. To find out more about all the services Lighthouse can offer visit www.lighthousevictimcare.org

How can victims get in contact with Lighthouse?

From first contact VWCO’s will ensure that the victim has their personal extension so they are able to contact them directly with any queries that they may have.  Lighthouse will usually make the first contact with victims. If a victim has not heard from Lighthouse and feel that they would benefit from support they should contact the officer in charge and ask for the case to be tasked through to them.  If a victim does not want to make a report to the police but would like to access support they can look on the Lighthouse support webpage.

What would you say to a person thinking of contacting Lighthouse?

It is never too late to access support. Lighthouse are here to listen, signpost on to relevant agencies and to help make a victims journey as smoothly as they can through the criminal justice system.

How did you get involved in this line of work?  

Kat – I have previously worked with people that are deaf and hard of hearing, as supported children and adults with autism. Working for Lighthouse was an exciting opportunity for me as I wanted to expand my skills in supporting victims of crime.

Stevie – I have worked in Witness Care within the Avon & Somerset Constabulary for the last ten years supporting victims through the post charge world.  I have seen the role develop and evolve into what it is today.  It’s important to keep one point of contact so a victim does not have to keep explaining their story.  Lighthouse support a victim now through the whole process.

Why are you passionate about supporting victims?

Being a victim of crime is very daunting and scary, just being there to listen and to make the process a bit easier for someone is very rewarding.  By believing someone, being patient and offering support even if the Victims  does not want charges to brought on Sexual Offence can bring that victim some closure. Being a victim of any crime can leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable, we aspire to ensure that every victim feels supported and is comfortable to call me if they have any questions or need some advice.

Do you have any survivor stories which stick in your memory?

Lighthouse regularly speak to inspirational people, but one survivor that stick in the mind was a lady that was in an abusive relationship and reported that he had sexually abused her.  He was charged with sexual assault and the case progressed through the courts where he pleaded not guilty. There were a number of occasions where she didn’t think she would be able to give evidence at the trial due to fear, but each time she would talk to either Lighthouse or her ISVA. By working together she had the confidence to attend court. After doing this she was really proud and felt empowered. She said that the court result was irrelevant to her as she had proved to herself that she was able to sand up in court and say what had happened to her, this was the closure that she needed.

 

Michelle-Windle-The-Green-HouseHi, i'm Michelle Windle, Director of The Green House. We provide counselling services for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse and my role is to oversee the organisation and our highly skilled team of therapists.

What support services can The Green House offer and to who?

We offer counselling for men, women, children and young people who have experienced any form of sexual abuse at any point in their lives, whether it was recently or a long time ago. We are based in St Werburghs and we also offer some counselling in Knowle West, Easton and Horfield.

How can victims get in contact with The Green House?

Anyone wanting to find out more about our counselling services can call us on 0117 935 1707 or email info@the-green-house.org.uk. Our website also has lots of information and leaflets about the support we can offer www.the-green-house.org.uk.

What would you say to a victim thinking of getting in touch?

I know it can be difficult to make that first contact but we have seen counselling make such a difference to so many people’s lives that it is really is worth it.  It can help you to  deal with and overcome issues that are causing pain or making you feel uncomfortable. It can provide a safe and regular space for you to talk and explore difficult feelings. Your counsellor is there to support you, they will respect your views and will not judge you.

How did you get involved in this line of work?

I trained as a counsellor after working in marketing for many years.  I moved into management when I saw that I could use my business and marketing skills to promote how important mental health charities like ours are.   I am constantly amazed at how powerful counselling can be in turning people’s lives around and giving them back their belief in themselves.

Why are you so passionate about supporting victims?

If a victim of sexual abuse or rape has the bravery to seek out help and support, it is vital that we are there to meet them at that point in their journey.   Being ready for change is an important part of the success of counselling and I am passionate about ensuring we are there to provide a professional service for as many people as possible.

Do you have any survivor stories which stick in your memory?

We have been reunited with a survivor recently who has changed irrevocably from when they first came to see us 5 years ago.  Karyn was really quite broken when she first came for counselling and the effect of her childhood sexual abuse was felt throughout her family with her children suffering as well as her.   After counselling, she went on to start a college course and is now five years later, in the second year of a degree.  She was seen as disruptive at school because she was acting out as a result of the abuse and didn’t get to finish her high school education.   No-one at the time knew about what her stepfather was doing and she now feels she has a second.

 

Hi, I’m Kyra Bond, Director of Womankind.Kyra - womankind

What support services can Womankind offer and to who?

Womankind provides specialist support services for women on any issue including rape, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, domestic abuse and enduring problems arising from past physical, emotional and sexual abuse. We offer counselling, group therapy, befriending and a helpline service. Womankind also has specialist services to support Deaf women, refugees, asylum seekers and trafficked women.

How can victims get in contact with Womankind?

Women can get in touch with us by calling our confidential helpline on 0117 9166461 or 0345 4582914 or email info@womankindbristol.org.uk or text: 07971345263or visit our website: www.womankindbristol.org.uk

What would you say to a victim thinking of getting in touch?

It isn’t always easy to tell someone about what’s happened but we would encourage you to not suffer in silence.  Talking to someone about what happened and how you feel can really help. We will understand your situation and can help you think things through so you get the support you need.  

How did you get involved in this line of work?

I have worked in this sector for over twenty five years initially training as a counsellor working with survivors of sexual abuse and then later as a manager. 

Why are you so passionate about supporting victims?

My passion stems from my own personal experience and journey to recovery. This work is really important to me and for the victims who’ve had their lives shattered.  I have seen how lives can be turned around again after the right support is given.

Do you have any survivor stories which stick in your memory?

Womankind has supported so many survivors and it’s difficult to pinpoint one story. However, there is one woman who we’ve helped over a long period of time. She suffered horrendous childhood sexual abuse from several family members. She struggled to leave her home, suffered regular nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks.  She would also self- harm by burning and bleaching her body.  She rang the helpline on many occasions and eventually she trusted us enough to come into the centre and have some counselling. Counselling wasn’t easy for her but she stuck with it and has now stopped self-harming, got her first paid job and is leading a much happier life.  Stories of transformation can give hope to other survivors.  

 
 
 
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