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Local victim services supporting survivors throughout pandemic

Sue Mountstevens

Local support providers in Avon and Somerset continue to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault throughout the pandemic.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens virtually met with a number local services including Mankind, SARSAS, Kinergy and Opoka to hear about the challenges they have faced during covid-19, how they have adapted their services to continue to support victims and the impact of backlogs in the criminal justice system.

Alongside a number of other services, the four providers received ‘Covid-19 Extraordinary Ministry of Justice Funding’ from the PCC to help further strengthen their response to changes in demand and complexity of need during the pandemic.

After experiencing an increase in the number of referrals and calls to their helplines, the funding has helped the services set up and continue to offer remote support to victims including webchats, phone and zoom counselling, online group sessions and even online yoga and art classes.

The services are currently offering the following:

  • Mankind offers support to men suffering from domestic abuse. The charity’s confidential helpline remains open, and provides listening and emotional support as well as practical information including how to report incidents, planning an escape and signposting to local support services, emergency housing and specialist legal help. Independent Domestic Violence Advisors are also delivering a ‘Pattern Changing’ course via Zoom for male survivors of domestic abuse to help them cope and recover from their experience.
  • SARSAS provides support to people in Avon and Somerset who have experienced rape or any kind of sexual assault or abuse at any time in their lives. The service offers support via phone, email or online live chat. SARSAS continues to offer counselling and support remotely including online group classes such as yoga and art sessions.
  • Opoka is a specialist service that supports Polish women and children who live in Avon and Somerset and who are victims of domestic abuse. The charity works closely with the Polish community to raise awareness of all forms of domestic abuse. During the pandemic, Opoka’s helpline remains open and the service provides support, advocacy and therapy online.
  • Kinergy is a specialist counselling agency offering support for survivors of sexual abuse and sexual violence. Although the service has paused their waiting list, the charity is offering trauma informed online counselling and phone counselling for those who had already been referred. The team has delivered over 1000 hours of support via Zoom in the last six months.

PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “This year has been a scary and uncertain time for those who are in domestic abuse environments or relationships. It was incredibly inspiring to hear about the work that these local services are doing to ensure victims and survivors of past and present crimes are being supported during the pandemic.

“These services have had to go above and beyond to adapt, and I know they are still delivering vitally important advocacy, emotional and psychological support to local people. I want victims to know that services do not judge; they are there to listen to you and support you on your recovery journey, whatever form that might take.

“Finally, please remember that household isolation instructions do not apply if you need to leave your house to escape domestic abuse. If you do not want to speak to the police, speak to someone.”

Victims can access help whether they choose to report to the police or not, no matter how long ago the crime took place.

Report it

If you or someone you know is at risk of domestic abuse or sexual violence, please speak to someone:

Support for victims and survivors

Help is available whether you report to the police or not, and no matter how long ago the crime took place. Find out more about local support services.