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COMMENT: Healing starts with being heard

COMMENT: Healing starts with being heard

Thursday 12 March 2020

COMMENT: Healing starts with being heard


A rape and sexual assault helpline volunteer has opened up about life as a listening ear to everyone from young people to those "triggered" in the night, and finally ready to share traumas from decades ago.

The volunteer - whose identity has been kept private due to the nature of their work - works for Jersey Action Against Rape (JAAR).

JAAR, which is Express's chosen charity for 2020, was set up five years ago by the family of Cassidy McIntosh, who was raped in 2012.

After a landmark civil case against her rapist, she decided to use the damages she received to set up JAAR in the hope of supporting other survivors and making them feel less alone. In recent years, it has also worked with young people and aimed to spread awareness around issues ranging from consent to porn.

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Pictured: JAAR aims to help rape and sexual assault survivors feel less alone.

In JAAR's column last month, the charity's Chair, Sara McIntosh, called for the end of "the days of burying our heads in the sand" and urged others to help break down the 'taboo' surrounding rape.

This month, a helpline volunteer has shared their journey with the charity and the responsibility of being a key port of call for those in need...

"A little under five years ago, I happened to be talking to a work colleague to say I had some spare time on my hands, and was considering some volunteer work. At that time, her sister was setting up the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) and she asked me if I had heard of JAAR.

This was a very new charity and, although I’d seen Cassidy McIntosh’s opening speech regarding JAAR when it was first launched, I hadn’t really done much research.

I had a meeting with Sara McIntosh and shortly afterwards became a volunteer on the helpline.

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Pictured: Sara McIntosh, Chair of JAAR.

Training was given, and I attended as many events, workshops and seminars that I could in order to broaden my knowledge on the subject. 

The reality of the responsibility of being a volunteer on the helpline isn’t taken lightly.

You may receive a call in the middle of the night from someone who has been ‘triggered’ and wants to tell you that they were raped 20 years ago, but have never told a soul.

This is just one example of many of the types of calls that we may take.

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Pictured: The helpline volunteers, who sometimes hear stories that survivors have "never told a soul" about, keep all call details strictly confidential.

In order to ensure that I was providing the correct response to the callers, I decided to embark on a course entitled 'Counselling Skills'. This is a level two certificate, and is the first step in training to be a counsellor.

I hadn’t intended taking this any further, but at the end of the year I decided to enrol onto the level three Certificate in Counselling Studies course. This is the natural progression towards being a trained counsellor.  

Next came level four: this is a two-year diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. It is not for the fainthearted!

It involves a lot of academic study, assignments, journals, and case studies - just to mention a few - and also 100 hours of placement counselling work with an organisation that is able to offer placements.

Students are also expected to have regular supervision and to also have their own personal counselling sessions.  

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Pictured: The future volunteer counsellor hopes to "make a difference to the life of a survivor of rape".

Once I am qualified, I will then become a volunteer counsellor at JAAR, and, although this sounds clichéd, I really do hope I will make a difference to the life of a survivor of rape.

Survivors who choose to speak to a counsellor are taking the first steps of taking control back into their lives, and a JAAR counsellor provides the emotional support for a person to do this." 

People start to heal, once they feel heard."

You can call JAAR's helpline on 01534 482800. CLICK HERE for their hours.

This column first appeared in Connect Magazine, which you can read here.

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