What you can expect when phoning the national Rape Crisis helpline
Since the UK went into lockdown, we were all asked to make huge changes to our way of life. Amongst a whole host of other restrictions, we were asked to stay indoors, stop working, stop going to school, and stop seeing family and friends.
This had an impact on us all as we adjusted to this new way of living under the threat of the virus. We know that this lockdown has been another thing to have to manage, on top of everything else that survivors have to carry and cope with already.
At the national Rape Crisis helpline we recognise that during this time it may have been difficult for women and girls surviving sexual violence to call our helpline. This may be because of other people in your household, or not having a confidential space to call, or feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with coping with sexual violence alongside a pandemic.
It can be really difficult to make that call when you are struggling to find the words. 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. They will work at your pace.
We know that sometimes it can be difficult to get through to our helpline. Throughout June, the National Rape crisis helpline saw a 41% increase in demand for the service compared to the same period in 2019. Our helpline workers are working 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 these calls. 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.
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 to not 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.
As the summer holidays approach and schools remain partially closed, you may have lost an additional support that you previously had. This may have been just having the kids out of the house for a while to have some space for you. If you attend school, this may have served as a distraction for a while, or provide a space for support from friends, teachers or counsellors. The helpline remains open every day from 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm. We are here for you if you need to talk.
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 what the perpetrator did.
Understanding that there is a lot of societal stigma around sexual violence, we offer a confidential space where survivors can talk about what they’ve been through, how these experiences have 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 things 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.
Click here for further information about the national Rape Crisis helpline and our email support service