Training programme to ensure ‘specialist’ counselling for rape victims

Rape Crisis Network aims to improve remote treatment after rise in helpline contacts

‘Remote trauma counselling is here to stay as part of a new hybrid model of on- and off-clinical counselling,’ according to the Rape Crisis Network Ireland director. Photograph: iStock

‘Remote trauma counselling is here to stay as part of a new hybrid model of on- and off-clinical counselling,’ according to the Rape Crisis Network Ireland director. Photograph: iStock

 

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has launched a new training and research programme to ensure there is “standardised, specialist” counselling for victims of sexual violence both on and off-line.

The programme, created in conjunction with Dr Jessica Taylor, UK-based forensic psychologist and sexual violence survivor, has been designed to address issues which emerged during the Covid-19 lockdown.

RCNI director Cliona Saidlear said the change in the provision of counselling services brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown had a profound impact on the quality and nature of the deep intervention required for survivors.

There was a 23 per cent increase in contacts made to Rape Crisis Centre Helplines in 2020, and while almost all of those already in counselling in the centres could switch to remote counselling, some could not, Ms Saidlear said.

“While there is some optimism that a vaccine for Covid-19 may mean a return to some normality in 2021, the impact of Covid and dealing with the trauma of sexual violence within the global shared trauma of a pandemic is not going to disappear,” she said.

“Remote trauma counselling is here to stay as part of a new hybrid model of on- and off-clinical counselling. But it’s vital that we know that what we are doing in this new era of on- and off-line counselling is working, is of the highest possible standard, and is completely survivor centred.”

As part of the programme, a specialist and standardised suite of training for those working with survivors of sexual violence will be created, the training will be accredited and recognised as best practice by key stakeholders including Government and a register will be created for all those working with survivors and who have completed the training.

Dr Taylor, author of Why Women Are Blamed For Everything, said it was vital the general public and bystanders also understand that counselling for survivors has to be highly specialised, trauma-informed and evidence-based.

“The old days of a comforting word and a ‘lavender bath’ have long passed for survivors of sexual abuse,” she said.

“The pioneering training and research work we are doing here in Ireland can inform the response to survivors throughout the world.”

The initiative is supported by Rethink Ireland, through the Innovate Together Fund, a collaboration between Rethink Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development. The fund supports charities’ innovative responses to the Covid-19 crisis that will provide lasting change.