Anne Scully, manager of Waterford Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, describes how Covid restrictions impacted the work of the centre with both counsellors and survivors forced to adapt quickly to challenging circumstances.
‘When the pandemic swept across the world we had to change how we worked very quickly, and that brought huge challenges, for us and for our clients. Like the other Centres, we switched to remote working in the space of a few days and began offering phone or video calls. Not all clients availed of remote working, some because of lack of privacy or not wanting to bring the therapeutic process into their homes, others because they knew the relationship would be changed by the distance and so wouldn’t work for them.
As therapists, we also had to bring the work into our own homes which proved testing for us – our own families were also at home so trying to find privacy and confidentiality for appointments was an issue. We juggled appointment days and times wherever we could so that clients could stay in contact. We continued to offer legal support and advocacy throughout, though our volunteer support workers were unable to attend at SATU so again, phone contact was offered to survivors.
Like our clients, we were sometimes competing for broadband/wifi with various family members and also trying to juggle childcare, parentcare, homeschooling, working from home, etc. All of us who work in the Centre found the lack of day-to-day contact with the rest of the team, which has always been a huge source of support for us, to be a huge loss. We replaced that with online team meetings, peer support groups, weekly check-in calls with myself as Manager and online supervision.
As various levels of restrictions came and went and came again, we moved back into the Centre and then back out again, putting all the safety measures we could in place to make coming into the building as safe as possible for everyone. We continued to offer a blend of face to face and remote counselling, as some clients were unable to return to the Centre, perhaps for health reasons or simply because public transport wasn’t running or because of lack of childcare.
We relied heavily on RCNI throughout, both for guidance and policies for online working, and weekly Manager meetings where issues created by this unique situation were identified and addressed. When I look back on it now, I’m amazed by how everyone simply took on the mammoth task of changing how we worked in very profound ways and still continued to put the survivor at the centre of it all – that continued to be the unchanging mantra and core of our services, while everything else changed around us.’
Waterford Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre can be contacted by phone call, text or email.
Freephone: 1800 296 296
Text: 087 2233730
Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s National Statistics 2020 Report will be available from Thursday 7 October 2021.