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The Bridge launches new campaign to support rape and sexual assault victims

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A campaign has been launched to support people affected by rape and sexual assault and those they may confide in.

The Bridge, Avon and Somerset’s Rape and Sexual Assault referral centre, is running the campaign during the inaugural Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which takes place from 1 – 7 February 2016.

The campaign aims to support professionals, friends and family members by signposting to advice on what to do if someone discloses being affected by rape or sexual assault.

Information is being provided online, with support from agencies such as Avon and Somerset Police.

The Bridge specialist team have also trained over 120 professionals in towns and cities across Avon and Somerset. The training was held in five locations, Yeovil, Taunton, Bath, Yate and Bristol, and delivered to people working in health, social care and children’s services.

The Bridge Centre Manager, Debbie Burunou, said: “Someone who has been affected by rape and sexual assault may choose to tell a person they know and trust, such as their GP or youth worker, a friend or family member.

“The response they receive to that first disclosure can have a huge impact. A sensitive and appropriate response will help support their journey to recovery.

“This campaign aims to raise awareness and offer people advice to help ensure anyone affected by rape and sexual assault is able to get the support they need.”

The Bridge run a 24-hour helpline service on 0117 342 6999 and is available 365 days a year to anyone affected by rape and sexual assault including professionals, friends and family members. Information and advice is also available online via the website www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk.

Debbie added, “Someone telling you about an experience of rape or sexual assault may leave you feeling confused or unsure about what to do next – but there are ways you can help.

“The Bridge specialist team are here 24/7, 365 days a year.

“Visit our website www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk for information, or contact our helpline for free and confidential advice.”

Alongside providing medical care and practical support for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, The Bridge offer free, specialist counselling and psychological therapy. Counselling services are available to people who are supporting a family member or friend following a sexual assault or rape.

PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “The Bridge Sexual Assault Referral Centre is co-funded by my office and NHS England. Recently, I was delighted to provide additional funding for their new website.  It is a great source of information for victims, friends, family and professionals across Avon and Somerset – easy to navigate, victim focused and accessible.

“It’s vital that men, women and children who experience sexual violence are able to access services when and where they need them. Rape and sexual assault is never the victim's fault and I want to make it clear that there are people here to help who will understand, take you seriously and believe you. 

“We have many high quality support services in Avon and Somerset, including The Bridge who are there for anyone who is in need of their help, support or advice. I would strongly encourage any victim of sexual violence to visit the new website and make contact with The Bridge so they can help you on the road to recovery.”

For more information visit www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk/support/counselling/

For advice if you are a friend or family member of someone who has experienced rape or sexual assault, visit http://www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk/friends-family/

If you are a professional and need information following a disclosure from a client or patient, visit http://www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk/professionals/

My friend or someone in my family has been raped or sexually assaulted, how can I help?

• Believe what they tell you. They may find it difficult to explain what happened in a clear and consistent way. This is because sexual assault and rape are traumatic experiences. The body and brain can react in complex ways resulting in memories that are confused.

• Ask them how you may be able to help but give them time and space to respond and respect their decisions. Restoring their sense of control over themselves and their life is vital in helping them to begin to recover from what has happened to them.

• Reassure them that their feelings are normal. This includes feelings of self-blame and guilt but remind them that responsibility lies with the person who did this to them.

• Check that they are now physically safe and if not help them to make arrangements to become safe. Tell that that you are there to help and offer information about The Bridge.

• Do not make promises you cannot keep. An important part of recovery is rebuilding trust.
Posted on Monday 1st February 2016
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