RSACC to ‘Empower’ children and young people with new schools project – Secondary school in Chester Le Street chosen for a pilot

Darlington and Durham’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre (RSACC) is rolling out a new schools project ‘Empower’. The project aims to raise awareness of sexual violence and its impact, inform pupils of the importance of consent and making positive choices, being a good bystander, highlight peer on peer sexual abuse and provide support to those affected.

Funded by Chester le Street Primary Care Network and the Chester le Street District Area Action Partnership, the project is initially funded to work in two secondary schools – Park View School and one other school to be confirmed later in the year.

Isabel Owens, RSACC CEO commented:

“We are delighted to have gained funding for such a vital and much needed project. Empower will provide young people with honest and experience-led information on healthy relationships, good decision-making and the prevalence and impact of sexual violence. We will also discuss consent, rape culture, challenge rape myths and show the benefits of being a good bystander. Additionally for those who have experienced sexual violence we will be providing a safe space to better understand their trauma and discover positive coping mechanisms.

Although we will initially just be working with two schools, if the pilot is successful we hope to gain additional funding to work in other schools throughout the area.”

The work, which will be led by RSACC’s Schools Project Coordinator, Jodie Steele, will include leading school assemblies, group sessions and 1-2-1 emotional support for survivors or those affected by sexual violence.

Dr Robert Bowron, Chester le Street Primary Care Network commented:

“As a Primary Care Network we looked at this bid and firmly believe in the ethos of the project. The devastating effect of the trauma associated with rape and sexual violence has a lifelong impact on mental and physical health. Specialist support is key in helping the recovery of young survivors and we felt that RSACC were offering a real and viable route for young survivors to access the specialist support that they require to help prevent survivors from finding alternative coping strategies such as alcohol and drug abuse, risky behaviours and eating disorders. All of which are a huge cost to the wider NHS.

RSACC are engaging with schools and supporting the young people and staff to talk about sexual violence and are facilitating the creation of safe environments where victims of abuse are able to disclose and feel heard and believed.

The education that this project can provide is invaluable for both young people and staff in schools. It will help to build constructive relationships and dispel myths, all backed up with factual and accessible information around healthy relationships, consent, misogyny, attitudes towards women and girls and crucially online safety. We are proud to support this project and would like to wish them every success and will continue to support practically where we can be of assistance.”

Ensuring young people receive this type of information and support was recently brought to wider attention with the Everyone’s Invited Instagram campaign. The campaign encourages victims, mostly in schools, to share their experiences of rape culture, sexual harassment, slut-shaming, coercion into sex or sharing of nude photographs and more, anonymously, in what the organisation calls testimony. Additionally, the National Police Chief Council’s (NPCC) National Analysis of Police-Recorded Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation has revealed that 52 per cent of all reported child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) and image-based abuse was perpetrated by another child aged 10 to 17.

Michael Wilkes Chester le Street and District Principal AAP Coordinator, commented:

“The Chester-le-Street & District AAP are delighted to have awarded funds to the Rape & Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre to deliver assemblies, group work and one-to-one sessions to generate positive discussions around key issues such as healthy relationships, online safety and consent, as well as providing a safe place for young people to discuss their views. This project forms part of the AAPs ongoing support for the health and wellbeing of our children and young people in the Chester le Street & District AAP area.”

Empower is just the latest project from RSACC to support children and young people. Last year it launched Keystone which provides support for parents and carers of children who have experienced sexual abuse. And only last month it was announced that Durham Police and Crime Commissioner had secured Safer Streets funding for RSACC to deliver Bystander Training to night time economy workers in Durham City.