Working with Sexual Violence and Abuse
Sexual violence and abuse
Just to be clear, sexual violence and abuse is a crime under UK law, whether those involved are known to each other or not. Almost everything outlined on the page about Domestic Violence applies. There are specific laws covering sexual behaviour contained within the Sexual Offences Act 2003. There are specific aspects to consider if a client is disclosing sexual abuse that has happened very recently as there may be forensic evidence potentially available. It is the client’s decision whether to report the offence. There are organisations called SARCs (Sexual Assault Referral Centres) which can help, guide and support victims, without requiring the police to be involved. There are also people called ISVAs (Independent Sexual Violence Advisers) who provide a single point of contact and assist victims who are considering using the criminal justice system. There are also IDVAs (Independent Domestic Violence Advisers) who provide a similar service in the case of Intimate Partner Violence.
The Role of Therapy
A victim of rape or sexual assault is likely to have experienced a traumatic incident and therapy can be helpful in processing and recovering. Because of the complex legal and safeguarding issues surrounding such incidents the therapist must have undergone specialist training so that they don’t jeopardise a victim’s legal options or at the same time influence their choices. Once again, safety is the prime concern and if a client is in danger there are organisations such as the police and a number of helplines skilled in the appropriate procedures which the client may wish to contact. If the offence has been reported then therapy may still be provided under specialist pre-trial constraints.
Options in Therapy
As well as stabilisation and recovery, therapy can offer insights into any behavioural patterns that may have created risks. There are a number of processes (such as the “Traffic Light” exercise) designed to help clients monitor and evaluate the moments that signal an escalation of risk so that they can experiment with new behaviours and diversions.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl