No More Waiting
Most people don’t think that they will need to use our services in their lifetime and when they do need our support it is most often at a point of crisis. Survivors of sexual violence too often have to rely on their own strength and resilience to cope with the harm that has been caused to them by perpetrators and through institutional responses.
When survivors come to us for support we believe it is their right to access on-going, holistic support from the point of referral, when they need and want it most. We currently, like most services supporting survivors, can’t offer them the support they are entitled to straight away because there are waiting lists for our services.
In a society where public and third sector organisations are stretched beyond capacity waiting lists have become common place but until we are faced with the reality of being on one most of us don’t really know what it feels like to wait. A survivor who has now accessed our support and advocacy services recently spoke to us about how it felt to wait for 6 months for her support;
“I had referred myself to the service and was pleased to have the initial support but I was disappointed I had to wait. During that time my mental health was breaking down. I tried the NHS but they couldn’t help and they just told me to take tablets but I knew I wanted to speak to someone. I didn’t feel like a person when they were doing that to me. I felt quite hopeless.
It was a weird combination of being hopeful I would be listened to but still feeling lost. My mental health was in a really bad way and I thought I wouldn’t survive the wait.
I remember getting the phone call from my support worker to say support was beginning and feeling a massive weight off my shoulders. It gave me something to think about and hang onto cause everything else had fallen to bits. I felt like I wasn’t living a life whilst I was waiting. I was just existing and then suddenly someone was listening and eager to hear from me.”
We do our best to support the people on our waiting lists through crisis appointments and drop-ins and the national Rape Crisis Scotland helpline is open every night from 6pm until midnight so survivors have somewhere to call. The number for the national helpline is 08088 01 03 02.
When you come to us we will understand how unfair and difficult it can feel to have to wait. All our workers are committed to making the wait as easy as possible and within the confines of limited resources will always strive to do the best we can to support you when you most need us. Most of the survivors who are referred to our services stay in touch whilst on the waiting list and eventually do access our support. But we know that healing should begin the day you are ready and that every extra day of waiting is a failing in our society and unnecessarily cruel.
We are committed to campaigning, fundraising and acting on feedback from people using our services to end waiting lists for survivors because we believe they deserve better. In light of increased confidence in reporting and the advent of movements such as #metoo it is essential to remember that a disclosure is most often the first step in a survivor’s healing not the last.
If you would also like to see an end to waiting lists here are 5 ways you can help:
1) Keep an eye on Local Authority Budget Consultations.
Most Local Authorities will now carry out some form of public consultation when they are setting their budget. Often cuts to frontline services will be included in the options that are consulted on. As sexual violence is an abuse of power and control the people that most use our services are those who are likely to have least power in society. Cuts to services like ours have the biggest impact on women, LGBTQI people and young people. There are already considerable access barriers to using our services for disabled women, BME women and women with no recourse to public funds and cuts to our services and resources only make it harder to address these barriers. Waiting lists in particular make it difficult to respond to survivors in the ways and at the times that best meet their needs and ensure their safety.
Local Authorities are required to carry out Equality Impact Assessments of all budgeting decisions to ensure that oppressed and minority groups are not hit worst by the cuts. Responding in these consultations affords councillors the information they need to understand the impact of their decision making.
Clackmannanshire Council are currently consulting on cuts to women’s service including Forth Valley Rape Crisis. You can still respond to the consultation until tomorrow here: https://clackmannanshire.citizenspace.com/communications-department/budget-consultation-2018-19/
2) Get in touch with your local councillors, MSPs and MPs
If you’re as angry as we are about survivors having to wait for services let the people with the power to change things know. The more community representatives know about the realities of waiting times for services the more likely they are to do something to help us end them.
If you are a survivor currently on our waiting list for support and would like our support to make your voice heard by local representatives we are able to support you with this. We also regularly collect feedback and use it to inform our own consultation responses regarding changes to funding because we know that survivors know best what they need from services.
3) Donate to our service
Even with our current level of public funding we are unable to meet the demand for our services. We rely on the generous donations of individuals to keep our waiting times at a minimum. You can donate to our service here: https://donate.justgiving.com/donation-amount?uri=aHR0cHM6Ly9kb25hdGUtYXBpLmp1c3RnaXZpbmcuY29tL2FwaS9kb25hdGlvbnMvYTAxZjQ5NWVjN2MwNDlmZGE5MDYzZWYwY2FjYjdlYTE=
4) Access our training
Survivors tell us that positive responses from multiple agencies help them to cope better when they need support. Whether navigating the benefits system or going for a night out survivors appreciate knowing there are people in the world who know how to respond to disclosures and support survivors without judgement. We have a number of training courses that increase knowledge, understand and skills in responding to sexual violence and survivors. You can see a full list of our training options here: https://www.forthvalleyrapecrisis.org.uk/training/
5) Read up on how to be supportive of survivors
Survivors using our services tell us that they really value when other people in their lives respond in a supportive way to their experiences. The Rape Crisis Scotland website has lots of resources that help people to understand the impact of sexual violence. Some of our resources are for friends/family, parents and partners: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/publications/?cat=9
Reading resources that help us to understand what survivors are experiencing and learn helpful ways to respond make it easier for us all to be supportive of survivors when they most need it.