Victim Support has launched Safe Spaces, a joint Anglican and Catholic Church project to provide a vital support service for survivors of church-related abuse.
Although the churches have funded the service, it is run independently by the Victim Support, one of the leading charities providing specialist support to survivors of abuse in England and Wales.
Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England or the Catholic Church of England and Wales.
A team of support advocates have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence and in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse and issues affecting people who have had or still have a relationship with the Church.
The team are based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, but it is a national service providing remote support through a helpline, live chat service and website. Remote support is provided for as long as the survivor needs.
This can be advocating for the survivor, giving them support, providing information (including information on Church and police procedures), understanding individual needs and jointly working on individual support plans.
If face-to-face support is also required, contact and referrals will be made with appropriate local organisations depending on need.
The service is for people aged 18 or over, but the abuse can have happened at any time in the past. If support is required for someone younger, Safe Spaces will endeavour to find appropriate local support.
Survivors do not have to have reported the incident to the Church authorities or the police in order to access support and do not need to be a current active member of the Church.
The service is for people who’ve experienced any kind of abuse, including sexual violence, inappropriate sexual behaviour, physical abuse, financial abuse or exploitation, psychological abuse (including spiritual abuse), domestic abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour.
Safe Spaces aims to reduce re-traumatisation at every stage of support and will ask for details of the survivor, their personal circumstances, any related support needs and the nature of the abuse.
It asks for these extensive details to reduce the requirement for the survivor to repeat their experience and to ensure that it makes safe and appropriate contact, matching specific skills-sets of its advocates whenever possible.
Safe Spaces can receive referrals via the telephone, or by completing a pro-forma referral document.
The security of the personal and sensitive data of survivors is vital, therefore, to ensure that you are able to share the full referral details required, referrals are only accepted via secure email.
If you wish to refer using the pro-forma document, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be sent a link to create a secure Egress account. This allows you to communicate with Safe Spaces securely, in accordance with GDPR requirements. Safe Spaces will then forward a copy of the pro-forma, to be returned via Egress.
The dedicated Safe Spaces team are available through the helpline and live chat service between Monday and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, apart from Thursdays when the service is open from noon to 8pm. They will make contact within 48 hours of reviewing a referral (72 hours at weekends).
Call 0300 303 1056, email email@example.com and LiveChat with the team or access service information at SafeSpacesEnglandandWales.org.uk