Solace is proud to announce that seven dedicated Solace volunteers, who are now working on the North London Rape Crisis helpline, have been awarded with the OCN ‘Award for Professionals Working in the Sexual Violence Sector’.
All volunteers who work on the helpline take part in a 10-week training course to enable them to support female survivors of sexual violence by developing non-directive listening skills and getting the necessary knowledge and awareness to provide information to survivors, their supporters and other agencies. The training covers key areas relating to working with survivors of sexual violence and abuse including; childhood sexual abuse, rape and the legal system, self-harming, coping strategies and myths & stereotypes around rape and sexual abuse.
Since the helpline opened in June 2015 it has received over 700 calls from women and girls who want emotional support following abuse or from professional and family supporting survivors. We spoke to one of the amazing Solace volunteers about their experience of training and providing support on the NLRC helpline.
What motivated you to sign up to volunteer with Solace on the NLRC helpline?
Sexual violence is something which we as women live with every day. You see it on the news, and you experience it on the streets, for many it’s also within their own home. And pretty much every day, I’d get angry about what was happening. But volunteering with North London Rape Crisis is a place where you can direct that energy to something more productive and more positive. The training course helped me to understand the different experiences and coping strategies of women affected by sexual violence. And working on the helpline, I have the amazing privilege to speak with brave, strong women. Each call reminds me of how resilient women can be, and really reinforces my passion for the Rape Crisis movement.
Training within a group of women was incredible. This was the first women-only learning environment I’d ever been in, and it was really eye-opening. It was great to be surrounded by women as passionate about equality and feminism as I was. And it was really reassuring to know that there was a supportive group around you, and a group who understood just what you were going through, because they were going through the same. Some sessions were really tough – we’d be discussing child sexual abuse or self-harm – but it felt like a safe space to say ‘this is affecting me, this is something which upsets me’. You didn’t feel judged or excluded, but rather like a team-member. I’m really proud of how far we’ve all come since that time and it’s great to receive the certificate to mark that.
How was your first experience on the helpline?
I remember being terrified when I was about to answer the phone for the first time. But as soon as the voice came over the line, all of those worried thoughts just calmed down, and that natural human connection kicked in. We’d talked a lot about the importance of empathy – but it wasn’t something that we had to remember to do, it was something that you just have to bring to the line. The act of listening is such a simple thing really, but it’s powerful.
What kind of support do you get to help you do this work?
The role can be difficult, but it’s good to know that there’s always someone there who will support you after a difficult call. Monthly supervisions are also a good space to let go of certain things and discuss the way you might be feeling. Solace is aware of the importance of self-care, and because it’s so fundamental to the way they work, you never feel like you should just “get on with it”. Instead, you feel understood and supported. If you need a moment, or a walk, or a cup of tea, that is what you need at that time, and the people around you will understand that.
How do you feel about volunteering to help fight against VAWG?
Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a battle. It’s just us against one enemy which seems to be everywhere: sexual violence. And that can feel really scary, and very overwhelming. But just a moment to re-focus can mean that you’re able to keep bringing your best to the fight against sexual violence, and that you’re giving all that you can to support those who are fighting beside you.
We are currently training new volunteers and are due to start recruiting again in autumn 2016. Find out more about volunteering with Solace
Find out more about Solace’s North London Rape Crisis services
Freephone Helpline 0808 801 0305