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Support and Resources 2021

Support and Resources

Drawing on 43 years of working with people experiencing sexual assault and women and children experiencing family violence, The SAFV Centre staff have a wealth of experience and expertise, along with knowledge of the drivers of sexual assault and family violence. This year, we continued to place the experiences of those impacted by sexual assault and family violence at the heart of our programs and our support.

Youth-focused group program launches

This year, our TACT group for Young People (TACT-Y) program, supporting young people impacted by family violence, launched. TACT-Y is a gender inclusive program for young people aged 13-17 running for 8 weeks.

Building on the strength and evidence base of the TACT program, TACT-Y has been adapted to ensure that it is accessible and developmentally appropriate for young people. TACT-Y aims to increase participant’s knowledge of the impacts of trauma, while increasing their levels of mindfulness, self-awareness and psychological flexibility. TACT-Y is both psycho-educational and experiential in nature, and includes body-based activities, music, art, writing and movement.

The program was adapted for an online platform, with seven young people participating in this first group. The next program will commence in term 1 in 2022, with the learnings from the first program taken into the rollout of the group.

Creating connections in a virtual setting

Understanding that trauma affects the brain and body has informed the way we think about recovery. Once, counselling was thought to be the preferred pathway to recovery. While counselling continues to be extremely beneficial for our clients, our group programs provide an additional and alternative approach to counselling to enhance resilience following trauma.

Like all face to face programs, our therapeutic group programs have transitioned to a virtual space, with our Trauma-focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (TACT), Connect, Children and Mothers in Mind (CMiM) and TACT-Y groups moving online throughout the year.

This reworking of our group programs into an online format took a significant amount of work by our specialist practitioners, adapting the content and activities, along with ensuring the safety and privacy of clients and developing their confidence in the program and connecting with others online.

While there was some initial discussion about how these programs would maintain the connection and engagement of clients, particularly the children who participate in the programs in an online space, the support and feedback from clients has been overwhelmingly positive, with a high level of engagement.

Since launching online, our group programs have supported more than 100 clients, with a greater reach now available due to the online setting, engaging clients who were previously unable to attend in person due to travel, work and family commitments.

“I wasn’t sure if the program was going to work online as it relies so heavily on connection and support, but it has. The women participating in the program are connecting, maybe even more so then they do when we run the sessions in person.” Counsellor Advocate

“In an environment where so much connection has been lost due to COVID restrictions, the group programs are providing an opportunity to connect, and know that they aren’t alone.” Counsellor Advocate

“I didn’t realise just how much I needed this program until I began, and not just the program itself, but the facilitators and the group setting. Something that I found really important is that before the TACT program I thought to myself, I cannot possibly move forward because I cannot forgive my abusers and they won’t ever apologise to me and that they had shaped me to be this anxious and emotional person and I had gotten to a point where I couldn’t see that changing. Only a couple of sessions into the TACT program my thinking started to shift, in a positive way. I began to understand through the work we were doing that it wasn’t about forgiveness and those who hurt me were in the wrong, I didn’t need that validation to move forward, they had already taken enough from me and I deserved to be able to move forward.” Group program participant

“I have such a strong bond with the counsellor advocates at The SAFV Centre and having that bond made me feel so safe and connected in the group program that I felt confident to speak and share my feelings.  Having the ability to join the TACT group online at home means I can schedule my work around participating in the program without having to travel to and from The Centre, while also staying connected during COVID restrictions.” Group program participant

“The CMiM group has been the missing puzzle piece in healing after escaping my abuser. To be connected with other mothers whom all have the lived experience as I do and the way that the Counsellors conducted the program was nothing short of validating, supportive and nurturing. It made the feeling of survivor isolation melt away in a format where we could all hold space for one another.” Group program participant

“Being able to have sessions with myself and my children was very helpful. I enjoyed being in a different environment where they were the sole focus of the session and being given ideas to help my parenting. It was also highly beneficial to my confidence to be told by a professional who works in this area that I am doing a good job in among all of the challenges we are experiencing at the moment when the perpetrator wants me to feel otherwise.” Group program participant

Our impact in regional Victoria

We are proud to support clients in rural and regional Victoria and acknowledge the unique barriers people in rural areas face in seeking support for family violence and sexual assault.

This year, our Wimmera team has continued to provide specialist support to clients across the vast Wimmera region, ensuring that access to support services for the rural and regional communities has not been adversely impacted by COVID-19.

Our Wimmera team has provided specialist therapeutic support to 438 clients experiencing sexual assault and family violence, the latter not funded but provided due to the need within the community and presence of co-occurrence of family violence for sexual assault clients. As part of our funding for therapeutic group programs, we moved our Body and Mind program to an online format, with more information included about this below.

We have supported 288 clients for sexual assault therapeutic counselling, with 81% of these client’s women; 130 clients for family violence therapeutic counselling; and 20 adolescents receiving Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment Service.

In rural Victoria, sexual assault and family violence continues to be prominent. There are distinct challenges that people impacted by sexual assault and family violence face, which are unique to living in an isolated location often with a dispersed population and large geographical distances. The opportunity for the perpetrator to maintain control may be greater, access to alternative accommodation and support can be difficult, and conflicts of interest may occur, where families can be well known and are apprehensive about perceived stigma. This isolation further impacts stigma and fear of reaching out for support. Farming in itself has complexity with legacy issues confounded by separating from your partner. .

With the impact of COVID-19, our team has pivoted our services to provide phone and video conferencing support to clients, allowing them to continue to receive support while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions. For many clients in the Wimmera region, having access to phone and video support has provided the opportunity to open up and share their trauma in a safe and secure way and technology has proven valuable to retain in our service model.

Our role in the Wimmera is both the provision of response services through our support to clients, and towards primary prevention through our role in partnerships and committees. We are co-chair of the Wimmera South West Area Integrated Family Violence Partnership, and as a collective, this partnership has been instrumental in highlighting the importance of establishing two South West Area Orange Doors – one in the Wimmera and one in Warrnambool to enable access and the needs of the community across the region are met. We are looking forward to the introduction of the Orange Door in Wimmera in 2021-22.

Calming the body and mind at home

Our Body and Mind Program is an important part of our support service, assisting participants of the group to learn self-awareness, understanding of trauma and calming the body and mind. Unfortunately, due to COVID, our in person delivery of the Body and Mind program was put on hold in the Wimmera.

However, to ensure this important program could continue, with clients accessing the program at home, our Counsellor Advocates created a video version of the program for clients to access anytime they needed.

The online video sessions include:

  • Trauma Sensitive Yoga designed specifically for individuals who have experienced trauma, focusing on tuning into what is happening in your body and how your body is feeling.
  • Managing Trauma Symptoms explores why we experience trauma symptoms and provides some activities to help manage these symptoms.
  • Window of Tolerance discusses how trauma may impact on the nervous system and highlights strategies to help heal from the trauma.
  • Connecting with Creativity encourages clients to spend some time experiencing a gentle creative process

As part of the program, clients receive the videos along with a body and mind pack to help complete the videos at home, including art supplies, weighted blankets, sensory items and therapeutic oils. Since launching in May for the Wimmera region, we have had more than 25 clients engage with the videos, with positive feedback and gratitude for the care packages.

“I found that having access to these videos at home has highlighted just how important creativity and a state of flow is for our wellbeing and in healing from trauma. These videos have helped me to ground myself and relax at home.” Body and Mind participant.

Providing support to professionals

How you respond to someone who discloses sexual assault or family violence can make a big difference. As one of the largest standalone specialist sexual assault and family violence organisations, our services also extend to providing guidance and advice to professionals working with those impacted by violence.

This year, our Intake team has provided more than 430 secondary consultations to professionals and practitioners from the health, education and community sectors, as well as private psychologists and police. Our support and advice for professionals ensures that they provide a safe and respectful response to a client impacted by sexual assault or family violence.

Colac Services and Support

We understand the importance of providing holistic support to people impacted by sexual assault and women, children and young people impacted by family violence and the strength in providing support to people at services that they are already familiar with.

This year, we have continued to provide specialist support to the Colac community to 220 clients through therapeutic support, group programs, family violence case management and court support when applying for Family Violence Intervention Orders from the Colac Magistrates’ Court.

We have supported 68 clients with therapeutic counselling, 46 women with almost 70 children accompanying them with family violence case management support, along with court support. In partnership with Colac Area Health, we also co-facilitated two group programs – Connect and TACT, to 29 clients. We also provide support through our Orange Door Barwon partnership, with one of our Orange Door Practitioners co-located at the Orange Door access point in Colac.

“The weekly calls were always helpful for unpacking what strategies the perpetrator was using and giving me some confidence to know the decisions I was making were sensible and reasonable, and to logically think through potential likely outcomes rather than focusing on the many ‘what ifs’ or being drawn into the manipulations the perpetrator was using.” Counselling client

Family Violence Intervention Orders

In the Barwon area, we have seen a 55 percent increase in the amount of women receiving court support when applying for Family Violence Intervention Orders, with almost 600 children accompanying these women.

This increase has been due to an increase in police callouts in Barwon area and the introduction of Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) applications being heard online with a magistrate, police and other parties present in the virtual forum.

The online process means that victims don’t have to face perpetrators in court and allows Intervention Orders to be made even if perpetrators don’t appear at a hearing, providing safety and confidence to those seeking the order.

Early invention program for adolescents

Children and adolescents who use violence in the home is a form of family violence that’s not often spoken about. This year, we have continued to deliver our trauma-informed adolescent family violence program, Step Up, in partnership with Barwon Child Youth and Family (BCYF) to more than 80 young people aged between 10-17 years.

Adolescents are at a vulnerable stage in their development and the COVID-19 restrictions, including remote learning and the limiting of social activities has had a big impact on young people. But stress and hardship are never excuses for family violence, including young people.

Step Up aims to contribute to positive outcomes for young people and families by attempting to reduce young people’s use of violent and aggressive behaviours. Behaviours may include physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, cultural or spiritual abuse and they can have a devastating impact on those who are ‘on the receiving end’ of the behaviours and those who also experience living in a violent environment, particularly younger children in the home.

Step Up is primarily an outreach early intervention program that focuses on the young person’s relationship with their family and community; recognising that change occurs through skills development and supporting the individual in the context of family, friends and community.

The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land we stand on. We are committed to working toward creating a community where all people indigenous and non-indigenous are safe, connected and empowered to live well. The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre recognises the diverse needs of our community and we ensure our services are inclusive of all children, young people and their families including those who are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, those who identify as LGBTIQ and persons living with disability. We work collaboratively with people and partner organisations who also support our diverse client group. Interpreter and translator services are available to all our clients upon request.

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