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What to expect when phoning the national Rape Crisis helpline

At the national Rape Crisis helpline we understand how difficult it can be for women and girls surviving sexual violence to call our helpline. We know it can be hard to find the words and you may have never spoken to someone about what happened before or be struggling to understand how you feel.

If you call us and find yourself unable to speak, that is ok. We will stay with you on the phone. If you have to end the call quickly, that is ok. If you want to call us back, you can when you feel ready, or in a safer space to do this. Our specially trained helpline workers are here to listen and support you. We will stand alongside you and go at your pace.

Confidentiality is a key part of the way we work on the helpline. Our calls are completely confidential. We are unable to see your phone number and we do not record our calls. We only know what you choose to share with us. If you wish to remain anonymous, or use a different name then you can.

We support women and girls aged 13 and over on the helpline. If you are under 18 and currently experiencing abuse, we will explain to you our child protection policy. If you choose to give us your name, address and phone number then we would need to pass this on to a manager. The manager will contact you first to talk about what will happen next and discuss a plan with you.

However, if you choose not to provide these details, then you can continue the call completely confidentially. We have no way of finding this information out. It can be scary to have other services involved, and it is your choice as to whether you want to provide us with these details.

If you want a space to talk about the abuse without the fear of any repercussions, the national Rape Crisis helpline can provide this for you.

Due to the prevalence of sexual violence in our societies, and the high demand for support, we know that it can be sometimes difficult to get through to the helpline. During COVID-19, the perpetration and impacts of sexual violence have been exacerbated; throughout June 2020, the national Rape crisis helpline saw a 41% increase in demand for the service compared to the same period the year before.

Our helpline team work hard to ensure that we are able to answer as many calls as possible, however we know that we are unable to answer all of the calls that are made. To help with this, we also run an answerphone service. If you are unable to get through to the helpline during the opening hours or need to call outside of our opening hours, you can leave us a voicemail. Our dedicated helpline workers return answerphone messages throughout the week.

If you would like to use this service, please ensure that you leave both a name and contact number so we are able to return your call. When we call you back, if someone else answers your phone we do not disclose who we are, or where we are calling from.  

How we work on the helpline and the reasons we do it that way

Sexual violence is about power and entitlement. Survivors of sexual violence have experienced someone having absolute power over them, someone removing their agency and right to make choices and for those to be respected. When someone commits an act or often acts of sexual violence, they are telling the survivor that they are not important and that their wants and needs don’t matter.

On the helpline we come from the opposite place to the perpetrator and dynamics of sexual violence. We respect women and girls’ wants and needs and ability to make choices. We come from a place of empathy and empowerment. Empathy is about being alongside someone, understanding how they feel and where they are coming from. It is coming from a place of equal power, where we don’t make assumptions that we know best.

Empowerment is about recognising both the destructive impacts of sexual violence AND the incredible strength of women and girls who keep on keeping on whilst living through these destructive impacts. On the helpline we acknowledge all of the amazing things that women and girls are doing to keep going even through the darkest days.

We also respect women and girls choices and decisions. Respecting that each person knows their life in a way we don’t and never could, we explore what she wants to do or change rather than telling her what she needs to do.

If we started telling someone what to do, we would be implicitly saying that we knew best and that what she thought and wanted wasn’t important. If we started doing things for someone, such as reporting to the police, we would be taking control and power away from them. This would be replicating the unequal power dynamics that exist during the perpetration of sexual violence.

We know that the work we do is critical. We live in a society that blames and disbelieves women and girls, and excuses or minimises abusive behaviour – a society rife with myths and misconceptions about what ‘counts’ as sexual violence, and that skew our perception of who is responsible and what the root causes are.

All too often this silences survivors, and it can take a long time, often years, before someone feels able and ready to reach out for support. For many survivors, reaching out to a national helpline like ours is often a first step. 

Because of the high levels of silence, shame and social stigma around sexual violence, we offer a confidential space where survivors can talk anonymously about what they’ve been through. This often includes how the sexual violence has impacted them, how they’ve coped and how they truly feel without fear of judgement or control being removed.

At a time when we are seeing an unprecedented demand for specialist sexual violence support services, the national Rape Crisis helpline offers some light amongst darkness for many women and girls living their lives alongside their experiences of violence and abuse.

We provide a space where women and girls can be totally themselves and be accepted as themselves.

A space where the very worst violations can be spoken about and there will be no judgement. We facilitate a space for survivors to stop judging themselves and start to believe in themselves and their futures again. A space where hearing an empathetic voice can lead survivors to see their own unique strengths, reconnect with their power, and start to believe in themselves and their futures again.

Click here for further information about the national Rape Crisis helpline and our email support service

Support Documents

Click here to view our support documents. Each document is available as a PDF download.

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