Young Survivors Case Study
Helping teachers in Essex support young survivors of sexual violence with CARA
CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse in Essex) formed in 1989 as Colchester Rape Crisis and has been supporting victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse in Essex ever since.
Recently, the team started receiving calls and emails from schools asking how they could better respond to and prevent peer-on-peer sexual harassment.
Due to a general lack of awareness and information, young survivors of sexual violence don’t always get their needs met in their education setting. Prevalent societal myths and attitudes mean survivors are often not believed, blamed or simply do not receive adequate support: mistakes which can often re-traumatise the survivor. For example, perpetrator and victim may be encouraged to meet and ‘resolve their differences’. Or survivors are isolated from their class and friendship group while the perpetrator continues life as normal.
Helping teachers make school safer for young survivors
CARA wanted to take advantage of this increased interest and willingness from schools to help make the education sector safer for children and young people. But with mounting commitments to support and advocate for survivors, CARA didn’t have the time or the means to put the project together themselves. With support from the National Lottery community fund, Awards for All, CARA commissioned us to put the training together.
Practical, survivor-led tools for education professionals
The training, Understanding Young People’s Experiences of Sexual Harm: Supporting Students consists of five 90-second animations with accompanying workbooks. The modules cover:
- Preventing Sexual Harm in Schools
- Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence
- Providing Support After Sexual Violence
- The Impact of Sexual Violence on Peer Groups
- From Disclosure to Closure: Supporting Young Survivors Throughout Their Journey
Our school specialist led the project, working alongside OneLink Media for the visual content. We invited education staff and specialist sexual violence workers including counsellors and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors to share their experiences and give guidance on best practices.
But the most important contributions to the project came from young survivors of sexual violence. Our specialist invited people who had survived sexual violence whilst 18 or under to share their feelings and experiences in an interview. In all cases, the person who caused the sexual harm was also a child or young person. The participants cover a diverse spectrum of gender, race, age and experience.
The programme then gives practical guidance on how teachers can make school safer for the young people in their care. For example, an important first step in a disclosure of sexual assault is to listen to and believe the survivor, before guiding them towards the support they need.
We developed supporting resources and facilitators’ guides for Safeguarding Leads and Senior Leaders to accompany the course. They guide the user to take advantage of INSET days and professional development opportunities to explore the material and help participants consider their role in supporting young sexual violence survivors.
A trauma-informed understanding of how to support survivors
Teachers and support staff walk away from the course with a trauma-informed understanding of how to respond to disclosures and what they should be doing to support survivors within their school community. In the future, we hope to expand our offering to help teachers tackle the causes of sexual violence by delivering better sex education.
By opening up conversations around harassment and abuse, CARA hopes to hear from many more survivors who might not otherwise have received support.
If you’d like to talk to ICENA about creating training for your organisation, get in touch.