10 days. 400 responses. 1 vital project to create world-class counselling for survivors.

It’s just 10 days since we launched our survivors’ survey and already over 400 people have already responded. This is truly remarkable. We are so grateful to each and every one that has taken the time and made the effort to complete our survey.

Your insights, your views, your great ideas will feed into the development of a global standard counselling service in Ireland as we begin to emerge from this pandemic.

The more responses. The better the response.

We also hope that the fact that so many have already responded that it might be encouragement for more of you to also take time to fill out our anonymous and totally secure survey. The more we hear from and the more views we get, the more we can work to improve the way counselling can respond in what is most likely going to be a hybrid world of on and off-line supports.

We know what we are asking is not easy. But, it’s important that you also know that we are not looking to cause you distress, or asking you to discuss your experience of surviving sexual violence. Instead we want to know what your experience of therapy has been like, what has helped you, what has not been so helpful, are there things that we, as professional therapists, are doing well or are there things we could do better?

We can only start to make the changes you want to see if you tell us how we can do our job better for you. This is something we are really passionate about.

Something positive emerging from COVID-19 in Ireland

And there has perhaps never been a more vital time to to re-evaluate, to re-imagine, to change what we are doing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been identified as a crucial turning point for the implementation of adequate guidelines for the protection of victims of domestic sexual and gender based violence, as well as for the proposal of new strategies for the management of domestic and gender based violence during future pandemics. The stay at home policies and lock downs have increased instances of domestic sexual and gender based violence itself, creating a “shadow pandemic within the pandemic”, as it has been called by the United Nations

Countries across the globe have reacted in very different ways. In Turkey, just last week, we saw the unlawful Presidential decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, putting women there in greater danger.

Thankfully, Ireland’s response has been to prioritise domestic and sexual violence, from the start of the pandemic. While we are still gathering data, it does seem as if this prioritisation has made a significant difference. We know from our own work that survivors of sexual violence have been reaching out to rape crisis centres. Preliminary data, taken from just six of our centres shows a 40% increase in the number of appointments filled, 22% increase in the number of helpline contacts made, and 89% increase in the text messages made to these helplines during the first six months of this pandemic when compared against the same period in 2019.

The combination of the conditions of the pandemic that we have been living with now for over a year, and the engagement of survivors with support services has had a significant impact on how we do our work. Many in the field of DSGBV are coming up with new and inventive strategies to reach out to survivors during this pandemic and beyond.

Here are the RCNI, we believe that our Clinical Innovation Project – or Counselling Survivors in an On and Off-Line World, is one of these global leading innovative strategies to change how we do things for the best and for the long-term.

We have heard from over 400 survivors. But, we want to hear from more. If you are a survivor, we want to ask you to stand with those who have already completed the survey. If you are a counsellor or a support service, perhaps you can encourage the survivors you work with to fill out our survey.

400 is a great number. But if we hear from even more of you, we will have a better chance of getting a rounded and holistic view of what is happening with regard to counselling now and, importantly, what has to happen to ensure that you get the support and professionalism you need.

Access the Survey Here