Allison and Morag came to us from the Rape Crisis Centre and offered us an interesting insight into the way the service is run and the support they provide to service users. The service is funded and therefore offered free of charge.

The service supports ‘collectivism’ in the way it runs the all-female service, with all staff, including volunteers, having equal responsibility for decision making, promoting equality throughout the centre.

The service offers a feminist approach to supporting women rape survivors, encouraging service users to acknowledge the inequality between the sexes in the patriarchal society they live in, in order to challenge the blame and guilt that the service user may assign to themselves. Rape is a decision made by the rapist and is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Allison and Morag offered us further explanation into the views of the patriarchal society, describing an equal society as one in which women should not have to moderate her behaviour but should be able to be who they want and do what they want without fear. The existence of violent men in our society creates the patriarchal balance meaning that non-violent men also benefit.

The centre challenges the medical approach to counselling rape survivors, stating they are not ill. They find that Feminism and Person-Centred counselling work well together with this clientele.
Allison and Morag offered us the core values of the service and distinguished the difference between feminist and legal definitions of rape.

The centre offers women the opportunity to develop new healthy relationships with staff and others, helping them to identify respectful relationships with self and others and helping them to recognise warning signs of unhealthy relationships.

Therapists will themselves practice what they preach and ensure they look after themselves and each other, as vicarious trauma can become an issue working with this client group.

Clients’ needs are respected in terms of accessing support. This will be planned, flexible but boundaried, and will focus on trauma, biology, neurology, and flashbacks.

Therapists are encouraged to work with the idea that clients may either want to talk about it or not want to talk about it but both will have valid reasons for this that can be discussed.

Only 15% of rape survivors will see their reporting of the crime through to the end and so the crisis centre will support service users by liaising with police, GPs, and domestic abuse services.
Service users are also able to access group work in order to share their experiences which can be a valuable tool. Other ‘safe’ activities are also offered along with coffee mornings and a helpline.

The service will also work with Child Trauma and this was briefly discussed in terms of work structure and philosophy.

The difficulties for survivors were explored in terms of presentation for counselling. All clients will have self-referred, however this may have been a last resort after seeking help for anxiety, depression and/or self-harm.

Useful materials:

  • Effects of Child Sex Abuse – Sam Warner
  • The Body Remembers – Babette Rothschild (for therapists)
  • 8 Keys to Trauma Recovery – Babette Rothschild (for clients)
  • Responding to Sexual Violence – Helen Jones & Kate Cook

Tracy McCadden