Sexual abuse survivor shares her story after receiving support from new service

A survivor of sexual abuse has spoken out after receiving support from Survive, the sexual assault and abuse service for Staffordshire, which helps victims – and their family members and partners – recover from the impact of the crime and cope with the harm they have experienced.

Barbara* was referred into Survive by the police after reporting historic sexual assault or abuse.

Barbara had been raped 40 years ago but felt unable to report the attack at the time, as she felt frightened, ashamed and afraid she wouldn’t be believed.

As a result, she suffered severe bouts of depression and had been taking anti-depressant medication on a long-term basis.

Barbara said: ‘I haven’t been able to trust people, and this affected my intimacy in relationships. I have grown-up children, but lost touch with them. I’ve worked on and off throughout my life, which was something I was very proud of, but losing my job during the pandemic left me feeling hopeless.’

Through Survive, Barbara accesses Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) support through regular face-to-face appointments, phone calls and texts. She’s built a trusting relationship with her ISVA and opened up about family dynamics, mental and physical health, as well as her fears and aspirations for the future.

Her ISVA ensured that Barbara understood the criminal justice process, which built her confidence and understanding, enabling her to report her experience to the police. Her ISVA liaised with the police to find up-to-date information on the investigation.

Barbara also accessed support to claim benefits after her employment ended. This was an incredibly stressful time for her, and her ISVA provided her with food and toiletry parcels during periods of crisis.

She felt particularly isolated and her ISVA explored her interests and support networks. Barbara is open to the local mental health team but was often reluctant to ask for help. She had moments where she felt very low and would seek emotional support from her ISVA.

‘I feel very relieved that my finances are now stable. I’ve re-engaged with my mental health worker. I’ve also started studying a course online, which has helped me focus on something positive and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment again.

‘I’m proud of myself for finally speaking out about the abuse, and with support from Survive I’m making positive changes in my life and feeling more in control. I’m taking one day at a time. I feel more motivated and happy. Today is a good day.’

The free service, launched in October 2020, is commissioned by the Staffordshire Commissioner’s Office with an investment of £300,000 per year for the next two years, and is delivered by Staffordshire Women’s Aid.

Staffordshire County Council also provide £20,000 per year towards the service and supported the commissioning process.

The service provides free tailored, confidential and effective support for victims, from reporting the crime or recognising they need support, to exiting the service.

Victims can seek support whether they report the crime to the police or not. Services include a local helpline, counselling and a specialist support and advocacy service for victims, as well as support for close family members and significant others.

If you would like to talk to someone about accessing the Survive service, or would like to make a referral, please call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 330 5959 or email [email protected]

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