Anyone can be a victim of sexual violence and / or sexual abuse. The terms cover an incredibly wide range of crimes that can effect people regardless of their gender, age or sexuality. Sexual violence and/or sexual abuse includes (but is not limited to) a range of crimes, including:
- Sexual assault
- Child sexual abuse
- Sexual harassment
- Rape within marriage/relationships
- Forced marriage
- So-called honour-based violence
- Female genital mutilation
- Child sexual exploitation
- Institutional sexual abuse
- Ritual abuse.
All of these can have a significant physical, psychological and emotional impact on the survivor and their family and friends.
Support is available regardless of when the abuse the happened and whether it has been reported to the police or not.
How may abuse affect survivors?
It is important to remember that sexual violence can effect survivors in different ways. Every survivor will have they own method of coping or trying to recover form the abuse they have suffered. Survivors of sexual violence are never to blame for their abuse.
The process of coping with or recovering from the impacts of sexual violence can be long, emotional and sometimes dangerous, as the perpetrator of the abuse may still be part of everyday life.
Survivors of sexual violence may feel reluctant to report abuse or seek support for a number of different reasons. The support offered can be discreet and is always focused on the safety of the survivor. Support organisations will always follow the wishes of a survivor unless there is an immediate risk to life.
What support is available to survivors?
In Cambridgeshire a number of organisations work in partnership to provide specialist support services for survivors.
Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre and Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group offers specialist support including Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs). ISVAs offer practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, recently or in the past. They help survivors access other available support services to address both short and long term needs. They can support survivors through the criminal justice system, providing information on what happens when such a crime is reported to the police. In Cambridgeshire there are ISVAs for adults and two specialist ISVAs for young victims. You can self-refer to these services through the partnership website.
Survivors can also access support through the Elms Sexual Assault Referral Centre, or by calling the Victim and Witness Hub.
Choices offer a countywide confidential counselling and therapeutic service for women and men whose lives are affected by childhood sexual abuse.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Rape Crisis Partnership
The service runs a helpline where trained volunteers will listen to survivors and help them find ways to express difficult feelings and talk about difficult situations. The volunteers will not tell survivors what to do, nor do they offer advice or try to influence decisions. Contact details and opening hours are available on the partnership website.
Support available also includes:
- Face to face emotional support
- Email support
- Group work
The Elms Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)
The Elms offers free support and practical help to anyone in Cambridgeshire who has experienced sexual violence and/or sexual abuse 24/7.
The service is completely confidential and survivors do not have to give any personal information in order to get help. Through the service survivors can explore a range of options including a medical examination to preserve any evidence – even if survivors don’t want to involve police at that stage but feel they may in the future. Survivors will be supported throughout by a Crisis Worker. The Elms can then support survivors with medical aftercare and make a referral to an ISVA for longer-term emotional support.
Choices counselling - This Cambridge-based charity supports women and men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Services are available countywide and include long term weekly counselling. The charity is currently developing additional therapeutic support offers.