A Teesside sexual violence service are encouraging survivors to come forward for support, recognising it is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a person but is very often a hidden issue and crime and many people may be struggling to disclose, due to issues of fear and shame.
Kerri Brems Sexual Violence, a Counsellor for ARCH, a specialist sexual violence service, tells The Tees, “We help support people who have experienced one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a person. We recognise it can be difficult for people to come forward. Through our work we have come to understand that survivors of sexual violence often struggle with feelings of shame, fear, guilt and self-loathing making it difficult to talk about their experiences with disclosure often taking many years.”
Kerri explains about the trauma symptoms survivors may experience, particularly those who have not spoken out before about what they have been through.
“When they come to us,” Kerri says, “our clients are often demonstrating trauma symptoms and presenting with a wide range of issues, including mental health distress, reliance on medication, loss of self-esteem, eating disorders, panic and anxiety, feelings of self-harm, and misplaced feelings of guilt and shame.”
ARCH Teesside is a specialist sexual violence service delivering services across Teesside whether the incident happened recently (within the last 12 months) or in the past and whether the person choses to report to the police or not.
Based in central Middlesbrough, they are right at the heart of the community. Their incredibly warm and welcoming team have been delivering services for over 23 years, delivering free and confidential frontline support to men, women and children who have experienced sexual violence/abuse.
Kerri also tells us, “A service like ARCH Teesside is important as it believes, empowers and validates the people it supports. We work with some of the strongest courageous people across the Teesside area. That’s what we are here for. For them. For people to feel heard and believed is one of the most powerful things you can do. Helping people recover from sexual violence is one of the most inspiring things you can witness, it is a privilege.”
People who have used ARCH are deeply thankful for the support that they provide, explaining the importance of being believed and accepting that what happened isn’t the survivor’s fault.
Maria (whose name has been changed to provide confidentiality) explains, “The service helped me understand that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. That what I was feeling was normal for something that shouldn’t have happened to me. It helped me understand who I am and that I am believed. I wouldn’t know where I would be without the support from ARCH.”
Kerri explains more about how the support helps, saying, “It can help give people the opportunity to explore how they may be feeling in a safe and non-judgmental environment. After experiencing sexual violence, someone might feel a range of emotions from guilt, blame, shame, anxious and hyper vigilance. Or they experience numbness, depression, flashbacks, or thoughts of self-harm. Counselling can help people understand what they are experiencing and develop coping strategies to help manage their emotions.”
ARCH deliver what is called an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) service, specialist one to one therapeutic support, group work, training, and practical and emotional support.
A sexual violence advisor (ISVA) can help support people who are thinking about reporting or have reported what has happened to them to the police. An ISVA will support people from the moment they report, all the way through to where that process ends – whether it may be at court or before. ISVAs are completely independent from police, and other agencies. Their only interest is to help support the victim/survivor and to ensure they have the information to help make an informed choice. An ISVA can help support people with updates about the case and provide emotional and practical support should the case go to trial.
ARCH also provides specialist support to children and young people through our children’s counselling service. Evidence shows talking to children and young people following their experiences at an early age can help from strong foundations moving forward as adults. Child play therapists understand that children develop differently and use play therapy to act out and express their feelings and emotions.
ARCH tailor therapeutic support to meet the preference and needs of the client. This includes offering online and telephone support to anyone who may not be able to engage through face to face.
Here’s a message from the team at ARCH:
“If you, or anyone you know has been affected by sexual violence we are here.
For more information on training, projects and services we offer:
Telephone: 01642 822331
We believe. We Care. We are with you.”