On International Women’s Day, RSACC demands greater understanding and support for County Durham’s sexual violence survivors

  • Referrals for it’s specialist sexual violence services see greatest ever increase of 47%

Darlington and County Durham’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre (RSACC) is  using International Women’s Day (March 8th) and it’s theme of inspiring greater inclusivity, to call on its communities for greater understanding for the thousands of sexual violence survivors it supports – the vast majority of whom are women and girls.

Isabel Owens, RSACC CEO, commented:

“Many survivors of rape and/or sexual assault are often traumatised not only by the event, but how society views them. This can manifest into victim-blaming from rape myths, disbelief and insensitive attitudes – which can exacerbate a survivors’ trauma.

We need to have a much more inclusive culture that validates survivors’ experiences and provides the support that’s being cried out for.

And we are seeing an unprecedented increase in sexual violence survivors requesting our expert specialist sexual violence services. In 2022 we received 454 referrals for all of our services, but in 2023 it was 669 – a 47% increase. Obviously it’s a positive sign that more survivors are coming to us for support, many after decades of not being able to tell anyone. But we need to make sure that there are specialist services for them to access at a time they need them and that society believes and supports them.” 

Currently 1 in 4 women has experienced sexual violence, in Darlington that would be 12,000 women and in County Durham, it’s 67,000.

In a recent RSACC Wellbeing survey conducted with a local college

  • 37% of participants had experienced inappropriate/sexual touching without their consent

Isabel continued:

“Everyday we are supporting girls and women throughout Darlington and County Durham who have experienced inappropriate and serious sexual behaviours and crimes – from catcalling to rape and assault. All of which can exclude them from playing a full part in our society. It’s time that stopped. 

We need a more open discussion on consent and better access to the resources and services we provide. However, as the only specialist sexual violence charity in our area, we are seeing increasing demands for our support.”

For many women and girls, their education, careers and lives can be put on hold until they receive specialist support. To truly inspire inclusivity RSACC wants us to change the way we view sexual harassment and support sexual violence survivors by believing them, challenging rape myths and through better funding of support services.