A focus on local rape crisis services and their work with young people.
As part of the week long Rape Awareness campaign, launched by Hampshire Constabulary on Monday, July 23, staff at Southampton Rape Crisis and Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis describe the work they do with local young people in Southampton and the Portsmouth areas.
Southampton Rape Crisis
Southampton Rape Crisis (SRC) provides a range of integrated, specialist services to those who are at risk of or who have been affected by an unwanted sexual experience. This may include anything from rape, childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault to harassment or coercion.
Any unwanted sexual experience can have a significant impact on the individual both emotionally and physically. SRC work with young people (from 12 years old), men, women and families, as well as providing information, advice and support to agencies who are working with affected individuals.
Michelle Barry, Southampton Sex & Relationships Education Group Coordinator with SRC, describes some of the work they do with young people.
""It is worrying that, as highlighted by Gillian Williams our Young People's Counselling Service Coordinator, many of the young people who come to us following an unwanted sexual experience feel that the same thing might happen to them again. They feel it has been proven that they can't keep themselves safe. Through our counselling and outreach work with young people we hope address some of these issues.
"The Star Project is our education and outreach initiative which aims to reduce the incidence of rape and sexual abuse and raise awareness of support services via creative and innovative workshops with young people in Southampton. Star also offers specialist targeted work around issues of positive relationships, consent, sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and other relevant sex and relationships education topics.
'In working with young people we are able to adopt many different approaches to put our messages across. We have been able to develop projects using drama, music, graffiti and dance. We always link with other agencies to deliver targeted work amongst vulnerable groups in the city; helping to raise awareness of the many resources open to young people in Southampton, and work hard to ensure that young people feel comfortable and confident in accessing them.
Having the back up counselling service for all of the outreach work provides a 'safety-net' when working with young people around sensitive issues and there has been a significant rise in contacts from young people since the Star project began.
Feedback from some of the young people Michelle has worked with includes:
"Don't feel under pressure in a relationship - remember, you have a voice! Stand up and speak up!" (Female, 15)
"I liked the openness of Star. It was great and I learnt the consequences of choices that can ruin the relationship. I learnt the values and disadvantages of sex" (Male, 15)
Between April 2011 and March 2012 Southampton Rape Crisis had provided 677 young persons counselling sessions, took on 41 new young person clients (66 clients finished) and conducted 91 young person assessments.
The service had also provided 2,239 adult counselling sessions, had taken on 92 new adult clients (48 clients finished) and conducted 214 adult assessments.
For more information visit the Southampton Rape Crisis website at www.southamptonrapecrisis.com
Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service
Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service (PARCS) is an organisation based within Portsmouth City that works with people who have been sexually violated at any time in their lives no matter how long ago.
PARCS provides free specialist counselling and psychotherapy to women and men, aged 13+ who are resident in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire.
The charity delivers a number of outreach workshops (to young people, teachers and carers) covering the impact of sexual bullying, sexting, internet safety (delivering CEOP Ambassador training), the delay programme and developing empathy and listening skills. The outreach worker has also designed 'bespoke' workshops responding to the particular needs of individual schools using a variety of methods including art and drama. These workshops are delivered to all Portsmouth schools.
Gemma Green, Youth Outreach Worker at PARCS, describes some of the work she does with young people,
"As a rape crisis centre our outreach work helps young people to look at and unpick the subtle issues and concerns around their activity on social media and the networks they have created that could result in some risky behaviour, which someone could ultimately take advantage of in terms of sexual exploitation. We also spend sometime talking about police and home office campaigns, alcohol and consent but also pick up on where people's beliefs and attitudes come for, for example the idea that it's only women in short skirts that get raped and if they do it's only their fault - where has that come from and how is it manifesting now with our young people.
"Work shops with young people can include the use of case studies where we look at the issue of consent and discuss whether and where the subjects in the case studies have given consent. We highlight to young people that even if they are with a partner and in a relationship, or whoever they are with, there should be consent every single time and the ability to be freely able to give consent."
Below is a case study used by Gemma.
Kat (16) has been going out with Thomas (17) for a few weeks and their relationship is not a sexual one. One night at Kat's house while her parents are out they start kissing on the couch, and Thomas tries to take things further. Kat moves his hands away and tells Thomas she doesn't want to have sex. Thomas starts to get really angry and shouts that Kat has been leading him on. He starts to shake her. Kat gets really frightened and has sex with him because she feels too scared not to.
The questions often asked to facilitate discussion.
- What are your reactions to Kat and Thomas?
- Did both of them consent to sex?
- How do you think Kat feels?
- How do you think Thomas feels?
- Have any laws been broken?
Gemma continues, "All the work PARCS does with young people is based on research which helps us confidently deliver consistent and appropriate messages. We also take sessions with adults - foster carers, adoptive parents, teachers, health care professionals and safety groups. As a rape crisis centre we are working daily with young people around sexual exploitation and sometimes messages that might come out nationally by the government aren't always appropriate for the local area or hitting the issues that are coming out of our sessions. It's really useful to feed that back to the adults who support young people offering them an opportunity to think about emerging issues such as boys collecting pictures of local girls, rather than looking at pornography which now considered uncool, and sexual bullying and how they can help to address them.
"Our prevention work is important and by looking at what is risky behaviour and what is consent people might consider their safety a little bit more and it also sends messages out to potential perpetrators that there must be consent. It sometime means going back to the basics of looking at what sexual activity can be classed as a crime which can be reported to the police. This work supports and also promotes our counselling sessions which are available to support people who need to put their lives back together following a rape or sexual assault.
For more information visit the PARCS website at www.parcs.org.uk. You can also find information on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Parcs/281916861827392 or follow them on Twitter - parcsrapecrisis
Click here for an audio clip of Gemma Green talking about the work of PARCS.
The Rape Awareness Campaign seeks to reinforce important messages about personal safety and how to prevent becoming a victim of sexual assault, focus on potential offenders and making them aware of the issues around consent and the consequences, promote the services of local support agencies and encourage victims to report sexual assaults to the police.