Blog: Giving a voice to thousands of sexual violence survivors in Avon and Somerset

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Tess via Unsplash
26 February, 2019


Blog written by Jennifer McLamb, Consortium Innovations Manager (Bristol Sexual Violence Support Consortium)

Last week, Voscur launched an anonymous survey to ask survivors of sexual violence (including child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and harassment) whether they would be interested in paid specialist sexual violence counselling, if it was available, and what they would want it to look like.

This is in response to our 2018 Sexual Violence Needs Assessment for Avon and Somerset, which found that long waiting lists and low awareness of available services presented survivors with significant barriers to accessing support.

However, sexual violence is not limited to any socio-economic group; research from the University of Suffolk found some survivors seek private alternatives to waiting lists for specialist counselling. In a few cases, this left survivors feeling unsupported and unsafe. As one survivor said, "At first it was okay, but I think it was the fifth or sixth session and I started to talk about the abuse and the counsellor said, 'I can’t deal with this, I’m not qualified to deal with this'."

This issue is that the prevalence of sexual violence is so high. The 2018 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 4.2% of women and 1.2% of men aged 16-74 had experienced sexual assault in the previous year (3.5% of women and 1% of men aged 16-74). Furthermore, it also found that 24.3% of women aged 16-59 had experienced sexual assault since the age of 16 (23.8% of women aged 16-74). There are some excellent commissioned services in Avon and Somerset, but even they can struggle to meet demand for support.

If those who are willing and able to pay an amount of money for the support they receive could access an accredited counsellor, we need to know what this service should look like, and which price point is best. This may not necessarily be market value – it could be a contribution. The important thing is that we hear from survivors and can learn from what they want.

Any survivor of sexual violence and/or abuse (or, in case of children, a parent or carer of a child survivor) is eligible to take this survey, and their answers will remain anonymous.

The results of the survey will be analysed to help us understand the demand for a paid counselling and/or support service. We have had a good response so far but want to hear from as many people as possible, so please do share this in your networks and with relevant groups.

The survey is available at: I hope you will help us reach the people who could benefit most.

The deadline for completion has been extended to Monday, March 11 at 5pm.

For more information on the survey, please contact me via email ( or call 0117 909 9949.

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