Parole Act 2019: Changes Relating to Victim’s Views 

In terms of victims’ rights there are a number of changes introduced by the Parole Act 2019, which came into force on 30 July 2021. These changes enhance victims’ rights and help ensure that a victim’s views are considered by the Parole Board whenever an application for parole (early release subject to conditions) is made by a prisoner.  

The new Act transfers the power to make decisions on parole from the Minister for Justice to the new independent Parole Board, a group of experienced professionals with expertise in various aspects of the criminal justice system. The Board was established on 31 July 2021 and includes one member who is CEO of Victim Support at Court, and others with extensive knowledge of victims’ rights and victim services. 

For the present, the only prisoners who can benefit from parole are those sentenced to life imprisonment who have already been in prison for at least 12 years. 

Although submissions from victims cannot be considered by the Board before the relevant prisoner makes an application for parole, this Act includes some extended rights for victims to have their views on parole considered once an application for parole has been made. 

In most cases, a victim is easily identified – but one change that has been made by the Parole Act is in the case of homicide. In such cases, the definition of “victim” now includes family members of the deceased, and a family member can include anyone who was dependent on the deceased. It can also include anyone with a connection “sufficiently close” to the deceased that s/he should be considered a family member. It is important to note that the definition of family member does not include any relative of the deceased victim who is under investigation for, or is charged with, an offence related to the death of that victim. 

The Parole Board is currently trying to build up a database of contact details of victims in whose case the convicted perpetrator has become eligible for parole, or will do so in the near future, so that they can contact victims directly once a relevant prisoner makes their application for parole. 

If you are a victim who wishes to be contacted by the Parole Board and asked for your views once the relevant prisoner makes an application for parole, you should contact the Victim Liaison Office (VLO) of the Irish Prison Service and give permission to the VLO to pass on your contact details to the Parole Board. Victims who are already registered with the VLO will be contacted and asked for permission for their details to be passed on the Parole Board so that they can be contacted by the Board directly and asked to give their views. 

Victims may give their views either in writing or in person, or through their legal representative, and these views must be taken into account in the Parole Board’s decision on parole for the relevant prisoner. Any victim who does not indicate that they will find their own legal representative to assist them in making submissions to the Board will be assigned one by the Board. 

Victims should be aware that the Parole Board will disclose any written submission from a victim to the relevant prisoner. The victim will be sent a copy of any parole order granted, including any conditions relevant to the victim if the Board considers it appropriate to do so. 

The Parole Board’s own website will be launched in the new few weeks.  

 

Caroline Counihan
Legal Director, RCNI

 

Additional Information  

  • The text of the Parole Act 2019 as enacted may be found here.
  • The consolidated text of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 may be found here
  • All contact details and links to information about procedures operated by the Victim Liaison Office of the Irish Prison Service, may be accessed here.

Sex attack survivors are ‘worth’ only 0.4% of a €4bn problem

‘I would say that I am old enough to know that there are very few women my age who have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault in their respective lifetimes. I know this because I am one of them.’

Minister Josepha Madigan during a Dáil debate on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (DSGBV) on Tuesday would have had many women nodding in recognition. There are very few women who have not been subjected to sexual assault. Most women have been. A not insignificant number of men. A fifth of girls and almost as many boys will be. A few words that highlight how terrible and banal sexual violence is.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) today announced they will be launching a report calculating the monetary cost of gender-based violence across Europe in August. In this report the cost to Ireland is estimated at €4 billion. €4bn each and every year. 80% of this annual cost of gender-based violence arises directly out of mens’ violence against women. And EIGE estimates funding for victim’s services across Europe amounts to a mere 0.4% of this cost.

Let us remind ourselves that an annual €4bn deficit after the recent economic crash was deemed so untenable it triggered harsh austerity measures for a decade. On reflection, spending more on preventing and addressing sexual and domestic violence during the crash might have been an alternative way to balance our books. Instead, the decade of austerity hit the domestic and sexual violence sectors hard. That was gendered budgeting at its sharpest. That was systemic and institutional misogyny.

A welcome million here and there over recent years saw rape crisis budgets almost reach 2008 levels by 2019. Almost! For the RCNI, the only specialist sexual violence evidence and policy level body in Ireland, we entered into 2020 carrying only 30% of our pre-austerity capacity.

Rape crisis centres have been able to draw on additional funding from Tusla, but the funding can be ad hoc and insecure. We cannot provide survivors with the beginning of what can be a challenging journey in specialist counselling, confronting the impact of the trauma they carry in their lives, and then abruptly finish that relationship because the funding has run out. People accessing Rape Crisis Centres face ever growing waiting lists. We are innovating around how to protect and support survivors on waiting lists when we should not have waiting lists. We cannot build specialization to understand and develop solutions to rape culture, rape myths and systemic hurdles, if we can only bring people in on short term contracts. We cannot deliver survivors voices as statistical evidence without a skilled network curating that data.

Very shortly RCNI will be launching ‘Storm and Stress: An Exploration of Sexual Harassment Amongst Adolescents’ which provides up-to-date evidence that children and young people are experiencing sexual abuse at school. One of our rape crisis counsellors undertook this research as a PhD after our calls to the Department of Education to undertake this research fell on deaf ears over the past decade. We continue to highlight the appalling vista of there being no national policy to combat sexual harassment in schools while the prevalence of harm is so normalized it is hard to grasp.

In the Autumn we will release the National Rape Crisis Statistics from survivors for 2020. We can already tell you that in a sample of seven RCCs there has been a 25% increase in appointments for counselling and support, and a 22% increase in contacts made to Helplines compared to the previous year. All of

these Helplines are funded by donations – no RCC Helpline outside of Dublin is state funded. This is vital information to government as it faces into the challenges cited by the Deputies on Tuesday in the Dail. These statistics are available today only because volunteers across rape crisis centres, our partner software specialist, academics and some of the best data protection experts in Ireland gave of their time and expertise generously and for free. Only in 2020 did the Department of Justice begin to provide some funding support for this work.

In the Autumn we will also complete research into how sexual violence survivors’ needs are being met by specialist counsellors and how we support that ongoing learning. However, there is currently no funding to train more counsellors.

We had two hours in the Dáil this week to discuss what we are doing to prevent sexual violence. When survivors are ‘worth’ only 0.4% of a €4bn scale problem, we should not be congratulating ourselves for ad hoc, insecure, relatively small pots of additional funding. We should be asking why we have not built and secured an infrastructure commensurate with the scale of the problem. This is the opportunity this moment presents, this is what this government can choose to deliver.

Clíona Saidléar is Executive Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland. This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on Thursday 9 July 2021. 

Changing signage won’t alter lived reality of why women go to toilets in groups

Published in the Irish Examiner, Wednesday 19 May 2021

On any busy night in any busy pub in Ireland (we remember them) there was one question that you can be sure was asked: Why do the women go to the toilets in pairs? This question was generally asked in derision, with a knowing wink – and always rhetorical. A voracious curiosity regarding this behaviour to do with the women’s loos, followed by an entirely contradictory display of disinterest.

What is acknowledged is that there is something peculiar and beyond the mechanisms of toileting and toiletry that happens behind that closed door. Some mystery ‘other’, important enough to remark upon endlessly, perhaps terrifying enough to never speak it.

It is into this subject that the School Design Guide for Sanitary Facilities (SDG) ventured. This guide for schools is intended to assist in the planning and design of both new buildings and retrofitted old buildings and is tasked with five objectives, one of which is the minimisation of bullying. On their own terms these recommendations make a lot of sense. But there might be a problem with the terms.

The definition of bullying by the Department of Education referenced in the SDG is ‘unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time.’ But while these correctly defined bullying behaviours inform the guidance, at no point are the characteristics that might be associated with who gets targeted, where and how, explored or named.

For illustration, one might argue that the single biggest change proposed (there are many) is to move away from single sex facilities to unisex facilitates. Yet at no point is sex itself (or indeed other intersectional characteristics) and the impacts they have on adolescents’ lived experiences, referenced. It is as if bullying happens equally to everyone regardless of characteristics – surely a working definition that is the antithesis of what we know about bullying.

As the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said recently, reflecting on the 400 serious bullying complaints his office has dealt with in recent years, the Department remains reluctant to collect bullying data and certainly not disaggregated bullying data. Data needed to answer the questions, what type of bullying is happening in our schools, how much of it is happening, to who, by whom? ‘We need to start drilling down into that and investigating whether it has related to racism or homophobia, for example… We have lost seven or eight years of that sort of data-gathering because the Department did not do it.’

In fairness to the SDG team therefore, they had no disaggregated national data on bullying in schools when tasked with designing facilities that would ‘minimise the risk of bullying’. In the absence of this data or public consultation, it is unclear what assumptions they utilized to underpin their recommendations.

For RCNI we are specifically interested in one form of bullying, sexual bullying which is characterised by being highly gendered. Gender matters when it comes to sexual bullying. According to the SAVI Report (2002), 93% of all sexual violence is perpetrated by men, 25% of child abuse is perpetrated by children (predominantly adolescent boys) and around 80% of victims of sexual violence are women and children. In recent CSO crime figures CSO figures, one in five (20%) cases of detected sexual violence which were reported in 2019, both the victim and suspected offender were under 18 when the offence occurred and almost all (99%) suspected offenders of detected sexual violence which was reported in 2019 were male. Numbers so compelling they cannot be ignored, except when they are.

We echo the Ombudsman for Children’s lament regarding our ignorance of what is happening in schools, how sexual assault is minimized and invisibilised. It should also be noted that the recent horrifying Howth incidence of gendered violence, seen by many on social media, happened in a setting of ‘passive surveillance’. This would seem to put in question the effectiveness of such measures as sufficient to minimise this form of bullying and violence. The silence on the difference between bullying behaviors and experiences, by children with different characteristics means it is hard to trust recommendations based on this myopia. It is also hard to see them working.

For as one teacher remarked reflecting on the SDG, “sure it doesn’t matter what they call them, within weeks the kids will have decided which one of the unisex toilets are for the girls’ and which are for the boys’.” She may be right. Girls will still go to the toilet in groups because changing the signage won’t have changed their lived reality – the reality they get to escape for five minutes in the girls’ toilets before they reenter the fray of a culture that is violently misogynistic; five minutes to armor themselves again to run the gauntlet that is everyday sexism, five minutes respite to build mental health resilience because, whether we name it or not, perhaps one of the most compelling reasons girls and women go to the toilet in gangs is not because of what happens inside these places but because of what is happening outside of them.

Dr Clíona Saidléar is Executive Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland.

 

The criminal justice perspective – live oral evidence is the best evidence (or is it?)

Our largely oral-based and delay-prone criminal justice process is not designed to deliver the best possible evidence from vulnerable witnesses, or to avoid their re-traumatisation through participation in the criminal justice process itself, as far as possible. Live oral evidence, especially in response to cross-examination, is still seen as superior to written or otherwise pre-recorded evidence, just as it was when this was written c 1900: – 

 “Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth” – John H. Wigmore, quoted in “Evidence in Trials at Common Law” (JH Wigmore, J H Chadbourn and WA Reiser), published by Little, Brown USA in 1974), at page 32  

This reliance on oral evidence may have made some sense in times past in which more general communication was oral and in which the delay between the offence occurring and the witness having to give evidence about what happened in court was generally much less.  

The delay point is well illustrated by the Ruth Ellis murder case in England in 1955: the murder was committed on 10th April, admittedly in front of several witnesses. Arrested on the spot very soon afterwards, Mrs Ellis was charged in the Magistrates Court within hours. Her trial for murder began in the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) on 20th June 1955. After a trial lasting two days, a verdict of guilty was returned and the mandatory death sentence was passed. She did not appeal, but a detailed letter was sent to the Home Secretary on her behalf asking him to commute the death sentence. He refused the request and Mrs Ellis was hanged on 13th July 1955, three months after the murder . So short a gap between offence and execution of sentence after trial of so serious an offence would be unimaginable now in either the UK or Ireland. 

 The reality now is that the gap between offence and trial is very much longer, even in cases of “recent” rape and sexual assault: it is more likely to be measured in years than in months. With the advent of the internet and electronic communications, there is much less reliance on detailed individual memories of events and conversations because they are not needed as they were before, many gaps in recall may now be filled by looking up the internet or consulting other (mainly electronic) records. It is time to ask why our criminal justice system does not ensure that victims of serious offences, including sexual offences, can give their evidence much closer to the time that the offence(s) happened. It is also time to ask whether, at the very least, the most vulnerable of these witnesses should not be able to avoid the ordeal of giving live evidence at trial at all but should instead have the opportunity to give all of their evidence, including evidence in response to cross-examination, much earlier in proceedings.  

Modern cognitive and forensic psychology findings* underlie the conclusions of reforming judges such as Lord Carloway, Scotland’s current Lord Justice-General (most senior judge), that “a person’s memory does not improve over time or being put under stress”. In short, Wigmore’s view of cross-examination as an effective forensic tool honed to elicit the most accurate evidence is psychological nonsense. There is now much more understanding of the negative effects which factors such as the trauma of the offence itself and the delay between offence and trial may have on the accuracy of memory and on the ability of the witness to find the emotional strength to share their memory of what happened in court. It is time for the criminal justice system to adapt its structures and procedures to accommodate the needs of all vulnerable witnesses in line with the findings of the latest and best quality scientific research in this area. 

* There is a wealth of material on this topic. One very useful compendium of views is “Addressing Vulnerability in Justice Systems” (ed Cooper, Hunting) London (2015), published by Wildys, information is available here.

 

Caroline Counihan

Legal Director, RCNI

Good Data Practice – The Quarterly Review

Every quarter we’ll cover some small and manageable tasks that will assist you in taking control of your data.

It’s been an eventful month regarding data protection and security, to say the least. The mere thought of the cyberattack that has occurred against the HSE is enough to send anyone with even the slightest knowledge of data protection into a cold sweat. It has served to highlight some key factors, such as; the importance of using robust data collection systems, only collecting necessary data, and ongoing training and support for staff accessing data collection systems. A system is only as good as its weakest link, whether that is the technology or the human using the technology. In most cases when a data breach occurs it is because of human error.

Let’s look at some manageable steps and safeguards you can put in place to ensure that any sensitive personal data you hold remains safe from data breaches and data hacking. The following refers to electronic records and technology safeguards:

  • Electronic records should be maintained securely with secure passwords to access them. Regular purging of sensitive personal data should take place in line with your workplace’s data protection standards and policy.
  • Electronic devices should be maintained and stored securely with secure passwords, necessary updates, and where relevant with encryption and antivirus software.
  • No person other than a relevant staff member in your organisation should have access to any work device used for work purposes.
  • When a staff member ceases to work for your organisation, you need to ensure that they have not retained any personal data used for work purposes on any type of device.
  • If using networks and cloud services, only trusted services should be used for the storage and sharing of personal data.
  • Secure and private password protected wi-fi connections should be used to access electronic records. Public wi-fi networks should not be used.
  • Emails containing sensitive personal data should only be sent where absolutely necessary, and the utmost of care should be taken to ensure the email is only sent to the person it is intended for.
  • Never open emails or attachments that look suspicious or that are from sources you do not recognise.

There is an increased risk of data security breaches over the past year as many people have had to quickly adapt to work from home using personal laptops, computers, phones, and other devices. Now is a great time to ensure that you are familiar with the data protection standards and policies in your organisation, and that you are working in a way which is consistent with these.

Elaine Mears

Privacy and Data Support Coordinator

‘All survivors and their needs are at the very heart of what we do’ – RCNI Marks #PrideMonth

Today, marking the start of Pride Month we are reminded that while sexual violence spares no one, some are more targeted than others just for who they are. There is no set of characteristics, privilege or even behaviours that will inoculate someone from being targeted and victimized. But people are rarely victimized randomly.  What the Rape Crisis approach has always understood is that rape and sexual violence is about power and by that we mean it’s about our culture and society, hierarchy, discipline and punishment, particularly punishment for transgression (however defined). Difference, breaking rank, challenging norms and traditions, even when they are not choices just facts, has always meant a higher risk of being targeted for sexual violence. This means women, children, people with disabilities, minoritized people and gender non-conforming people are particularly targeted. This is why we especially want to mark Pride Month. 

In our report ‘Finding a Safe Place’ based on LGBT survivors using 15 rape crisis centres in 2013, we sought to give a voice to LGBT survivors. One of the key findings was the difference between LGBT peoples’ support structures and safety nets compared to the rest of the population, with LGBT+ people being alone with their experience of sexual violence longer and then relying more on friends than on family for disclosure and support than the general population. We hope much has changed since 2013 but we still need to engage in conversations towards prevention and better responses.  

We need to have a conversation around sexual violence and the LGBT community that encompasses vulnerabilities that are sometimes universal, sometimes targeted at LGBT people because they are LGBT, or sometimes involving sexual violence between LGBT people. 

Rape crisis centres work continuously to be safe spaces for LGBT and all survivors. The RCC fundamental model of practice is necessarily inclusive to meet survivors where they are, to journey beside them and support them in ways that empower. We continue to strive and to evolve, to ensure that RCCs are safe spaces for LGBT+ people.  

All survivors and their needs are at the very heart of what we do. Our core principle is that dignity, respect and recovery for survivors are always at the centre of our approach.  RCNI believe in the fundamental dignity and worth of all human beings. 

We believe working to make our society safer for LGBT people is an urgent task and an end in itself; moreover, it serves to make a better world for everyone. RCNI continues to commit ourselves to being part of this conversation. We continue to listen to and be informed by the many LGBT survivors who put their trust in their local Rape Crisis Centre at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. We are committed to an evidence informed approach to achieving our goals of providing best practice responses and social change which protects the human rights of survivors and prevents further victimisation. 

Rape Crisis Network Ireland Executive Director Dr Clíona Saidléar Appointed to the Health Research Board

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) is delighted to announce that Executive Director Dr Clíona Saidléar has been appointed to the Health Research Board (HRB).

The HRB is the lead funding agency for health research in Ireland and oversees a €45 million investment in health research activity each year. The HRB leads and supports excellent research, generates relevant knowledge and promotes its application in policy and practice.

Says Ms Saidléar:

‘I am very honoured to have been appointed to the Health Research Board. I believe that consistent and comparable data is essential in developing policy objectives and in my role in the RCNI I have been a strong advocate for the importance of research, data and evidence to ensure that survivors of sexual violence in Ireland can access the very best care available. As the RCNI works from a feminist and equality-based ideological foundation, challenging inequalities and discrimination is a large part of my work, and I am looking forward to bringing this dedication to evidence-informed care and commitment to human rights to my role in the Health Research Board.’ 

The remaining appointees announced by Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly this week are Dr Terence McWade, CEO of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and Dr Julie Ling, CEO of the European Association for Palliative Care in Belgium. The appointments run from 9th April 2021 to 8th April 2026.

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

Counselling Survivors in an On and Offline World

“We can only start to make changes if you tell us what you need”

“RCNI really wants to hear from survivors of sexual violence”, says Dr Michelle Walsh, Clinical Programme Lead

Last week, the tragic circumstances around the death of Sarah Everard in the UK sparked concerns and renewed interest in Domestic, Sexual and Gender based violence throughout Ireland. In an on-line piece on March 15th, Damian Cullen of the Irish Times asked, ‘How safe are women in Ireland? Have you been through experiences of being harassed, assaulted or worse? He asked survivors to share their stories; thirty people outlined their experiences.

Victim blaming

The responses from the brave survivors who came forward mirrored the stories of survivors that we hear here at RCNI on a daily basis. They detailed incidents of stalking, sexual assault, cat calling, victimization due to gender, of women and girls feeling consistently unsafe and then being blamed for their assaults.

“I don’t want my daughter growing up to accept this is normal”

Pornography a problem

Some cited the availability of porn as part of the societal wide problem. Others recounted how menacing and threatening behaviour could even be normalised, being told by colleagues in the wake of an instance of stalking, for example, that that they should be flattered. Many survivors recounted how their experiences detrimentally effected their health and their ability to feel safe in the world. With conversations turning to “I don’t want my daughter growing up to accept this is normal” and “it’s not ok to look the other way anymore”.

“it’s not ok to look the other way anymore”

Peer influence

A number talked about peer influence and its ability to motivate and cause change, outlining strongly that men need to be part of the response in addressing the issues of sexual harassment and assault. Another, however, discussed men’s unwillingness to recognise the extent of the problem and accepting that there is a risk to being female.

Let’s talk about men

Again in the Irish Times, on Monday, March 22nd, Anne Enright, stated, “We always speak of women’s safety, let’s talk about male violence instead.” Too often we do not talk about men when we talk about male violence and that is how they like it, she said.

“We always speak of women’s safety, let’s talk about male violence instead.”

Again, a very true and valid point, which led onto a great discussion on victim blaming, its impact and how that plays out within the different sectors of our communities.

Not a male or female issue

I agree whole heartedly with both articles but for me the missing point is that sexual violence is not a male or female issue. It is a societal issue, flamed by the gender and social norms that we are all exposed to consciously and sub consciously from birth. It is only when we become aware of this and over time when we reimagine and recalibrate the gender and social norms that we ascribe to that we can start making a difference to the unacceptable level of gender based violence that happens in our country – and particularly and crucially – to the way we treat those who have been exposed to its effects.

We can make changes

I believe that as a country we can make the changes we have to and that is precisely what we here at RCNI are working towards. We are constantly trying to improve the systems that survivors have to navigate in order to gain help.

Standardised counselling is key

Our new Clinical Innovation Project, entitled Counselling Survivors in an On and Off -line World forms a critical part of this push for change. It is about ensuring that survivors attending for counselling receive a uniformed standard of care, whether they attend a rape crisis centre or a private therapist.

Your input is vital

Over the past three months we have engaged with over 750 counsellors and psychotherapists, from a multitude of backgrounds including those within our own sector. Our work has been focused on exploring where our strengths and weakness as therapists are, collaborating with each other for the benefit of all survivors.

We want to hear from you – survivors

We are now moving to a critical part of our work – talking to survivors. 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. This project is not going to stop sexual and gender based violence but we hope that it will give everyone working in this sector more understanding, more evidence and clarity about how we can move forward in a new post-pandemic world. We also hope it will help us to challenge the social gender norms that we continue to hold as a society – to help break the culture that regrettably and wrongly makes the world far less safe for women and girls.

Change has to begin somewhere. If you do what you always do, you’re going to get what you always get. With your help, your experience, your bravery we can begin to transform the way we respond to sexual violence.

Clinical Innovation Project: Q&A session for mental health professionals

Responding to the Trauma of Sexual Violence in a Post-Pandemic World

 

RCNI launches innovative training and research programme to address Counselling Survivors of Sexual Violence On and Off-Line

 

On January 14th, RCNI launched its Clinical Innovation Project: Working with Dr Jessica Taylor, of www.victimfocus.org.uk, to co-create a training for, and with, counsellors and therapists in the area of sexual violence.

 

The new programme combines both critical research and training. The programme will gather evidence and understanding around the impact of dealing with the trauma of sexual violence in a pandemic world, and how practitioners have responded. Secondly, RCNI and Dr Jessica Taylor will deliver a CPD recognised training programme, taking into account the evidence, to fast track learning and upskilling to counsellors. This will ensure that survivors can be confident that the services they are accessing, whether in person, or remotely, are of the highest quality.

 

The programme will also complement the implementation of the O’Malley Report, Supporting a Victim’s Journey: A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases.

 

Future-Proofed Training

 

The new training programme Counselling Survivors On and Off-Line will:

 

  1. Create a specialist and standardised suite of training for those working with survivors of sexual violence;
  2. Ensure that these trainings are accredited and recognised as CPD best practice by key stakeholders, including Government;
  3. Create a register to ensure that all those working with survivors in this post-Covid era have completed the training as the gold standard;
  4. Create an on-line community of practitioners connected to survivors through safe online platforms.
  5. Complement and strengthen other projects and programmes like the O’Malley report training.

 

The first piece in this project is a Q&A session for mental health professionals, which will be facilitated by RCNI’s own Dr Michelle Walsh, and Dr Jessica Taylor. This will take place over Zoom, and places can be booked here.