Sexual Trauma and Recovery Services (STARS) is a charity that supports anyone of any age or gender who lives, works or studies in Dorset and has been affected by any form of sexual violence such as rape or sexual abuse at anytime during their life. Last year we supported over 1800 people in the county, the youngest person currently in our service is four years old, the eldest is eighty two. We offer a one to one Counselling Service, a Support Line and an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) Service. All our services are free.
Our Counselling Service
STARS counselling service provides one to one, trauma-informed counselling. We create a safe and confidential space, allowing the client to explore and address thoughts and behaviours that are overwhelming. Through psycho-education, our counsellors help clients understand the impact of their trauma on their brain and their body, giving them control and choice. We have over thirty counsellors the majority of which are volunteers. Before COVID-19 all our counselling work was done face to face with clients at our centres across Dorset.
Our Independent Sexual Violence Advisor Service (ISVA)
Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) provide vital support both emotionally and practically to anyone who has suffered any form of sexual violence. An ISVA is there to help the client make an informed decision when everything feels out of control and confusing. They can explain options and help clients decide as to whether they want to report to the police and they will support the client throughout the whole process, for example: during their witness statement, liaising with the police on their behalf, keeping the client informed about case progress and providing support before, during and after court. Our ISVAs can also help clients access support from other agencies, such as Social Services, Mental Health Services and Housing Providers. ISVAs provide clients with a regular point of contact and ongoing support whilst they are in the service.
Our Support Line and Live Chat Service
STARS also offers a Listening Support Service and a Live Chat service to anyone who has been affected by sexual trauma. This service is suitable for our existing clients, people who have not accessed our services before and those supporting survivors of sexual violence in a personal or professional capacity.
Before COVID-19 our Counselling Service and Independent Sexual Violence Advisor Service were provided as one to one, face to face support services. Counsellors met with clients on a weekly basis in our centres, ISVAs would meet clients out in the community or where the client felt safe such as at school, work or perhaps in a local cafe.
During these unprecedented times things have had to change and change fast to make sure we continued to offer the regular support our clients need. A lot of our clients were suffering from increased anxiety, some were in lockdown with their perpetrators and many were re- experiencing trauma symptoms such as flashbacks and panic attacks.
From the start of lockdown we began supporting clients via the phone and through online video links. This has led to extra costs for the charity as we are still paying for the rent on our centres, incurring increased phone fees and subscription costs for online video platforms and we have had to invest in training to ensure our services are provided to the same high degree of quality through these new mediums.
Our Independent Sexual Violence Advisors support approximately 300 clients and now provide their support via phone. Our counsellors now support clients either via the phone or through an online video platform. Client sessions via the phone last a minimum of thirty minutes, as our counsellors are volunteers many are using their own personal phones.
Before COVID-19 our support line was available for 2 hours six times a week as was our Live Chat Service, during these uncertain times we have increased our Support Line's availability to thirteen 2 hour sessions each week and our Live Chat Service is available 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday. Calls to our Support Line have increased three fold during this period. Although this has not incurred any extra costs it has meant many staff members and volunteers are increasing their work load.
We now also have an increased waiting list as our assessment team have been unable to assess clients whilst we have been in lockdown, they have not yet been trained in online assessment. All clients have to have an initial assessment with the clinical team before they begin counselling.
The Solution - What Your Donation Will Help Provide for the Charity
Due to the restrictions put in place around COVID-19 we have had to very quickly adapt to this new environment and change the way we work as a charity. We have had to invest and create an infrastructure that works remotely and provides the continued support our clients need. We have met these challenges head on however to do this we have incurred costs and we will continue to incur additional costs to transform our means of delivery but hopefully through the money raised we will be able to create and maintain our support enabling everyone across Dorset to access our services.
The following is a breakdown of what we hope the funds will cover:
- Ensure every single one of our counsellors is further trained in online counselling. This will mean that they can continue to counsel clients whatever their circumstance and will also mean we will be able to support more clients when COVID-19 is over. We will no longer be restricted by how many counselling rooms we have at our centres across Dorset.
- Due to lockdown our waiting list for counselling has increased as we have been unable to assess clients online, something we have never done before. With this funding we would develop and train an online assessment team which would mean waiting times for clients to start counselling would be lowered, as as soon as an assessment takes place we can then allocate that client a counsellor to work with and their therapy can begin.
- We have employed an extra member of staff to support several of those who are on our long term waiting list for counselling, so those that are waiting for allocation to a counsellor receive ongoing support from the charity throughout these uncertain times.
- For all our counsellors we provide fortnightly supervision sessions, where counsellors are supported, these sessions currently take place via a video conferencing platform, again this has and will incur an extra ongoing cost for the charity.
- We need to cover the extra costs of all the phone calls that our Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Counsellors have and will incur.
- We would also like to help support our counsellors, many of whom are volunteers, by providing mobile phones where needed.
- Provide wellbeing workshops, specifically mindfulness training, for our staff and volunteers who have been working additional hours to cover the Support Line through this period.
If you are able to donate to our project, to help STARS invest in its remote working infrastructure, to ensure it can continue to support clients, it would make such a huge difference and would hopefully mean we would be able to continue and extend our support to all those who have suffered any form of sexual violence in Dorset.
Thank you so much.