5th December 2018

The Community Foundation for Surrey is delighted to have awarded funding to RASASC Guildford (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre) across a number of grants. Most recently, £15,900 was awarded for their Youth Service Development Programme, providing invaluable support to survivors of rape and sexual abuse, aged 13-25.

We spoke to Lesley Devonport, the charities Operations Manager, and Caroline Thwaites, Fundraising and PR Manager about the invaluable support RASASC delivers to local victims of sexual assault.

We exist to relieve the distress of people who have suffered rape and sexual assault and to educate the public in the problems of sexual abuse, supporting both male and female survivors across Surrey.

Many people perceive Surrey as an affluent area, which in some parts, it is. But within it, there are pockets of deprivation and real needs that go unnoticed and unsupported. With the recorded number of rape offences taking place in Surrey, the highest it’s ever been, it is more important now than ever, to keep our services running.

Our Young Service Development Programme, which has been recently supported by the Community Foundation, will enhance the provision on our existing Youth Service. This service provides one-to-one, long-term trauma counselling to victims as young as 13 who have been raped or sexually abused, working alongside the young person’s Individual Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA) to help them come to terms with what has occurred and support them in taking the next steps in their lives. Each young person can be supported for up to a year.

The Youth Counsellor also facilitates a peer-led support group for young survivors so that they have a safe and supportive ‘move-on’ option for when the counselling concludes. The young people who are supported by the Youth Counsellor have been assessed as needing additional support in excess of that offered by the Youth Person’s ISVA. This group of young people will have been assessed as suffering from severe mental illness which is usually attributed to the abuse they have suffered. They will also be likely to have physical scars and may or may not have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Therefore, they have been flagged through our screening process as ‘high risk’ and are in need of collaborative support.

In addition, and to give the best chance of the counselling being successful, the Youth Councillor also delivers a programme of family resilience so that the parents and carers (where safe and appropriate) of the young person can also be helped. The aim is to give them a safe space to verbalise their fears, frustrations and anger and then provide them with coping strategies which can support their own mental health, as well as helping their child. In doing this, the whole family is supported, and resilience built, as they work together to support the young survivor to have the best chance of reaching their true potential.

We are incredibly grateful to the Community Foundation for supporting this vital service. Counselling enables people affected by trauma to come to terms with what has occurred, and particularly in young victims, the sooner support can start, the better. All our counselling services are by self-referral and we are proud to adopt a ‘we believe you’ attitude. We offer a variety of other counselling services, such as individual sessions on a one-to-one basis, Family Support Sessions for partners and close relatives, sessions for survivors attending court, as well as self-help groups.

We expect to see an improvement in clients’ mental, emotional and physical health as they come to terms with their trauma and as their journey progresses through our services. Part of recovery is to rediscover self-worth and esteem, which usually results in reduced consumption of drugs and alcohol, more physical activity and healthier nourishment. Better quality sleep as a result in reduced nightmares and panic attacks, as well as a reduction in medication for depression and mental health.

Awareness raising is also a large part of what we do at RASASC. We receive approximately 200 calls to our helpline each month, with callers based both in Surrey and nationwide. The charity’s volunteer counsellors are each supporting up to 3 people per week, with individuals travelling to the charity’s Guildford base from across Surrey, mainly west of the county. However, recently RASASC opened a Hub in Leatherhead so that counselling is more accessible to those in need in the north of the county.

However, like most charities, we struggle to find funding for core costs, and it is these core costs that keep our service running and provide the opportunity and resources to support more survivors. Without this funding from the Foundation and our other supporters, we simply can’t continue to do what we do.

We are incredibly proud of our work here at RASASC and are all in agreement that it is the most rewarding job we’ve had by far.

The Community Foundation for Surrey is a philanthropic charity inspiring local giving for local need. The grants we make to groups in Surrey such as RASASC are made entirely possible by the giving of individuals, businesses and trusts whom we work closely with to help direct their giving to causes they are passionate about. You can find out more about Giving and Who we Support by clicking to through to the relevant pages.