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New support for sexual violence survivors

August 15th, 2023 6:00 AM

By Eimear O'Dwyer

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Dr Crowley is the author of the report on sexual violence in West Cork.

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A WEST Cork-based Sexual Violence Support Service will launch in September so that survivors of sexual violence will no longer have to travel to the city for help.

The service will work with women, men and children over 14 years of age and is a direct response to local research which revealed a growing need for such supports.

Co-ordinated by Sandra Byrne of the West Cork Women against Violence project, the service will provide information, support, advocacy and access to specialised counselling. The service is in response to an analysis that was done in West Cork to examine the supports available for people who have experienced sexual violence.

Tusla, the child and family agency, identified the need for a specialised support service and provided funding for a training programme on sexual violence, led by the Rape Crisis Network.

A panel of 13 counsellors from West Cork have undergone training around sexual violence and will volunteer with the service for the next 18 months.

The specialised support service will be ‘client-led and trauma-informed’, said Sandra. ‘Our aim is to support the client along their journey, according to their needs, as identified by them.’

There will be a dedicated support worker in place and a phone helpline will be operational from Monday to Wednesday.

Independent researcher Dr Caroline Crowley examined the services available in West Cork and identified the places where survivors need more support – including GPs and other healthcare services.

Sandra said the wider breadth of the work will look at building the capacity of these frontline responders, who are often the ones survivors first confide in.

The aim is to increase the capacity to respond appropriately to survivors, she explained. It’s a twin approach in terms of providing specialised support, enhancing the capacity of other organisations to respond, and providing information and guidance to other frontline practitioners that are working in community-based agencies or organisations, Sandra explained.

The service will work with women, men and children over 14 years of age and its objective is to be accessible and inclusive for people in the West Cork area, so that they do not have to travel to get the support they need.

‘We recognise that West Cork is such a geographically dispersed area, with a lot of people living in quite isolated areas and islands – so we’re trying to develop a service that will be inclusive and accessible to all,’ said Sandra.

She added that the service is looking to outreach to other community organisations across West Cork to provide confidential, safe spaces for survivors.

Further down the line, Sandra hopes that more preventative measures can be taken to educate people and develop a zero tolerance campaign around sexual violence.

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