Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week: Coping with the news

Sarah D’Angelis, UK SAYS NO MORE Programme Manager, Hestia

This post was originally published on the UK Says No More campaign website

The last few weeks have seen incredibly distressing stories making news headlines, most notably the case of police officer David Carrick being revealed as serial rapist. The unfortunate likelihood is that we will need to brace ourselves for more cases of a similar nature yet to come.

These stories are triggering and painful for many of us*, whether we’re survivors ourselves, we know someone who is, or perhaps just because of the fear and anger they provoke. But we must remember that behind each headline are brave individuals who, whilst living with the devastating long lasting impact of their own experience of sexual violence, have had to re live traumatic memories in the hope to prevent this from happening to another person.

At Hestia and UK Says No More, we are having conversations with survivors about the impact of these stories and the future they would like to see. Many of our colleagues in the VAWG (Violence Against Women & Girls) sector have shared valuable recommendations for improvements in police recruitment and vetting to prevent these crimes in future. What’s clear is that in order to create meaningful change, survivors’ voices must be at the heart of any proposed improvements.   

What can I do?

More broadly, many supporters of our campaign are asking, what can I do? How can I help someone who has been through this terrible ordeal?

If someone confides in you that they have experienced sexual violence or abuse, most importantly believe them and tell them that you believe them. This might be the first time they have been believed.

Listen to the person, but try to avoid giving them advice or telling them what to do. Respect their decisions even if you disagree with them. It’s important to give the survivor choice and control over what happens next.

Finally, don't tell them to forget about the assault. Even if it happened a long time ago, the current news agenda might be triggering all kinds of responses to past trauma. It can take a long time for survivors to process with their feelings, so be patient.

Get professional support

Here are some of the fantastic organisations who can support you if you’ve been affected by rape or sexual violence:

Rape Crisis England & Wales: A 24/7 Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Line and 39 Rape Crisis Centres based across England and Wales.

The Survivors Trust: The largest umbrella agency for specialist rape and sexual abuse services in the UK – with 120 member agencies based in the UK and Ireland providing information, advice, support and therapy.

SurvivorsUK: Runs the National Male Survivors Online Helpline – a webchat and SMS service for men, boys and non-binary people who have experienced sexual abuse at any time in their lives.

Rape Crisis Scotland: Phone, webchat and text support for people of all genders living in Scotland aged 13+ who have been affected by sexual violence.

Nexus NI: 24/7 Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline providing information, advice and support to those affected by Domestic and Sexual Abuse across Northern Ireland.

Bright Sky: Hestia’s own Bright Sky app and website contains a directory of local services to support those who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, as well as domestic abuse.

You can also use the NHS website to find your nearest sexual assault referral centre (SARC), who have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for anyone who has been raped sexually assaulted or abused.


*This can be further exacerbated by poorly researched or written articles. Language matters, and victim blaming is still all too common. Our Partners at OnRoad Media produce guidance for journalists on ethical reporting across a range of topics.