Sexual Abuse and Violence: Resources and Support

by Rosie Harris

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses trauma, including sexual violence, assault and abuse, as well as the effects of this trauma on mental health.

Increasing our understanding of how to support anyone who has experienced sexual assault or violence can be meaningful as a therapist, and often we are approached by clients, colleagues or friends and family looking for contact and support in this area. Overall, I would always recommend trying to attend a specific training to understand the effect of sexual abuse and violence. This can be helpful in understanding the profound impact on the person and their sense of self and safety in the world, and their relationships with others. It is also important to understand the physiology and neuroscience of trauma, and how this can manifest for clients in their day-to-day lives after the experience. Finally it can be vital to understand the legal necessities around how to question someone following an incident – so as to not influence their testimony - and how to write notes which may later be used in the legal processes around abuse and sexual violence as a therapeutic practitioner.

In my experience, how we receive people who have experienced sexual abuse or violence can make a huge difference on their wellbeing. Survivors of sexual violence and abuse are often relationally traumatised and the themes of abuse, control, and oppression can become repeated –often unconsciously-through organisations or relationships following the abusive incidents. Jo Stuthridge (2006) discusses this in her paper on a Trauma model for Transactional Analysis: “Inside Out”. Being mindful of how to support with compassion and safety someone who has experienced violence or assault can help us to improve the culture around disclosing and limit how the unconscious processes of trauma are re-enacted following such a difficult experience. Additionally, knowledge of trauma and the body’s response can be essential additions to understanding what the person is going through and how it might manifest personally and interpersonally. Examples include The Body Keeps the Score by van der Kolk and Complex PTSD: Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker. Alongside this, situating a person within good resources can help them to be informed of their supportive options, access support on their own terms and give them information to help them feel more regulated and in control of their situation.

Below, I have included some of my most-used resources and supportive services which you may or may not be aware of, both locally and nationally. 

Rape Crisis Services

NHS Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) – A safe and confidential space to discuss support for rape and sexual assault, including historic abuse. What is a SARC outlines all the ways they can help, including how they can support if the person does or doesn’t want to contact the police. Their website is very comprehensive and important to signpost people toward as a priority (Exeter SARC details). They stress how 10 days is a significant timeframe for collecting physical evidence, and provide advice on how to respond if the assault is within a 10 day timeframe or outside of this.

Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Service – Local rape crisis and sexual abuse service. Confidential and anonymous helpline and email support services are available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6pm to 9pm. Call on 01392 204174 or email See website for more information on their support services and resources.

Useful Resources and Self Help
Crisis support toolkit for coping with flashbacks and impact of historical trauma.
Self Help Guide for survivors of sexual violence booklet that gives coping methods and ideas and strategies to help in your process of recovery.
MIND self-care for PTSD including strategies for coping with flashbacks.
Tolerating distress course for managing distressing feelings, especially module 3 which can be helpful for looking at how to manage overwhelm using activating or soothing activities (page 5)

Domestic Violence Services
Fear free - domestic violence support service, offers 1-2-1 support and advice for victims and perpetrators in Devon.

Listening and Supportive Services
Rape and Sexual Abuse Helpline – Call 0808 500 2222 24/7, or online chat, free and confidential 

Victim Support Devon – Call the local team on 0300 303 0554 (lines are open 12pm-6pm Monday to
Friday) or national support line on 0808 168 9111, open 24 hours.

Support for Men 
Safeline offer support for men experiencing rape and sexual abuse.
Survivors UK support boys, men and non-binary people who have experienced sexual violence.

Support for LGBTQ+ 
GALOP supports LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence. The group runs helplines,shares information and hosts an online forum for survivors to share their own stories.
The Truth Project – historic sexual abuse service allowing survivors of child sexual abuse an opportunity to share their experiences and put forward suggestions for change
Karma Nirvana – Honour based violence national support service.

Further in depth resources:
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker

For Practitioners:
Jo Stuthridge (2006) Inside Out: A Transactional Analysis Model of Trauma, Transactional Analysis
Journal, 36:4, 270-283, DOI: 10.1177/036215370603600403

Rosie Harris is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist, and a tutor for the Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy programme at the Iron Mill in Exeter

Course Venues:   Exeter   |   Poole

Certificate in Counselling