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A new mobile therapy unit is helping to shine a light on efforts to combat violence against women in communities across the region.
Funded by Welsh Government as part of a capital grant, the unit is being run by RASASC North Wales (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre). It includes a private sitting and consultation area, with facilities to meet and have a coffee and chat with service users and where they can receive information, advice and counselling support.
The aim is to support those directly affected by sexual violence and their families and the service will cover all the counties across North Wales in the medium of Welsh and English.
The service will include a mix of rural and urban settings, with the aim of visiting venues such as supermarket carparks and hospital carparks to do conduct regular drop ins.
It will also be used to raise awareness, providing a visible presence and target hardening products during freshers’ weeks and attending schools, colleges, and universities throughout the year.
The need for the new unit has been demonstrated by the large increase in referrals regarding violence against women and girls in North Wales seen by professionals in recent years, growing from 178 in 2011-12 to 801 in 2021-22. RASASC NW also recognised the need for it to expand its reach across the area, and that women in marginalised communities, rural areas, or those lacking transport or internet connectivity, needed to be able to access its vital services and advice.
The service will also aim to serve the LGBTQ+ community, Travelling community, BAME community and sex workers, who will be able to assess crisis drop in sessions at the main RASASC centre, as well as use the mobile therapy unit.
Gaynor McKeown, Interim CEO, RASASC North Wales, said: “RASASC NW are working closely with North Wales Police and the Welsh Government to combat and address the issues of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and improve access to advice and support.
“We have launched the new mobile therapy unit to ensure that we can reach as many communities across North Wales as possible, working with these communities to raise awareness and tackle sexual violence.
“RASASC NW are the largest accredited providers of support and advice services for all victims of rape or sexual assault in North Wales.
“Our team of qualified counsellors and ISVA’s provide tailored support to survivors which is free, confidential and can be delivered face to face or remotely.
“Working with North Wales Police, we have identified that there are some geographical areas where victims are not accessing support.
“With the new mobile therapy unit and the launch of our “Don’t steal my Future” educational programme, we are hoping to raise awareness of our service, enabling more victims and their families impacted by sexual violence to access help.”
Wayne Jones, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales commented: “It was an honour to welcome the new RASASC NW therapy unit to Police Headquarters. RASASC NW have created a vital service that will enable communities and vulnerable individuals right across North Wales to access the support and advice that is crucial if we are to overcome the growing scourge of violence against women and girls.”
Andy Dunbobbin, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales said: “My Police and Crime Plan for North Wales has tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence at its heart and this initiative will help achieve those aims. We are pleased to support both RASASC, North Wales Police and all other partners in their efforts to make our homes and streets across North Wales safer for women and girls.”
VAWG Lead for North Wales Police, Chief Superintendent Jason Devonport said: “This is an excellent asset and opportunity to engage with all of our communities, especially some of our more rural areas, in which we know domestic abuse and sexual violence occurs and is less frequently reported.
“We are committed to support those people who suffer this behaviour but want to be able to bring perpetrators to justice speedily and effectively. This type of engagement and support can only strengthen the partnership approach to violence against women and girls.”
Minster for Social Justice in the Welsh Government, Jane Hutt said: “Our commitment is clear, violence against women and girls must be stopped. Harassment, abuse and violence are daily occurrences for women and have conditioned their lives for far too long.
“Each year, the Welsh Government provides funding for specialist services to provide invaluable and lifesaving support to all victims of VAWADSV, this includes early intervention, preventative and educational support, perpetrator intervention programmes, Independent Domestic Violence Advocates for high-risk victims as well as therapeutic recovery interventions for the ongoing support of those impacted by VAWDASV.
“We are pleased to have funded the mobile therapy unit to be used across North Wales. This initiative supports our commitment that no matter where a victim lives in Wales, there is a strong public and specialist service ready to help. We want to encourage anyone concerned, triggered by or experiencing VAWDASV to seek support.’’
As well as the new therapy unit, RASASC North Wales have been delivering training and raising awareness of the prevalence and impact of child sexual abuse and sexual violence on individuals, survivors, victims, their family and friends and society as a whole.
In response to a VAWG 16+ initiative, North Wales Police funded RASASC North Wales to further develop their existing training programmes to meet police objectives to address this issue.
RASASC North Wales recruited the expertise of TACTA – Transactional Analysis Central Training Association, to develop this programme working closely alongside RASASC North Wales and North Wales Police.
The result, ‘Don’t Steal My Future’, is a powerful, impact driven training workshop, describing the widespread prevalence of sexual violence and how society can begin to change attitudes and behaviours towards women, girls and sexual violence.
Lasting three hours, the workshop promotes awareness and clear learning objectives, with the aim of reducing violence, particularly towards women and girls who make up the large proportion of the population affected by these crimes.
The package includes interactive learning, real life examples and lots of useful, relevant information. The end of the training features a unique pledge not to steal anyone’s future, so that everyone can live a life free of fear of sexual violence.
Gaynor McKeown, Interim CEO, RASASC North Wales, added: “In the last year we have seen a 35% increase in referrals, but we know that this is still not a true picture of the number of offences being committed.
“The impact of rape and sexual violence on individuals and their families can be devastating and long lasting. With survivors reporting that they feel their future has been stolen from them and changed forever.
“This joint initiative is an opportunity to raise public confidence and encourage people to speak out against Sexual violence, so no more futures are stolen.”