“Our feelings are exactly that… OUR feelings! I feel in charge of my journey” – Supporting Survivors of Sexual Exploitation

16 Days of Activism – A guest blog by Horizon SVS at Cyfannol Women’s Aid

The Sexual Exploitation Advocacy Support Service (SEASS) is a Gwent wide service within Cyfannol’s Horizon Sexual Violence Service. SEASS delivers advocacy and support services to people who are or are at risk of being exploited through the sex industry and young people who are or are at risk of experiencing Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

SEASS’s work with young people aims to prevent further exploitation through adult exploited sex work, by delivering early preventative support on issues such as; recognising grooming, what exploitation looks like, healthy relationships and exploring a range of emotional issues that make young people vulnerable to grooming and exploitation.

SEASS also works to increase the protection and safety of exploited adult sex workers, in any environment where the exploitation is taking place; on the street, within brothels and parlours or online. SEASS provides on-street outreach support on wide-ranging issues such as sexual health, mental health, and police reporting on crimes committed against sex workers. SEASS’s can deliver support in any setting.

We are aware that face-to-face talking therapy is not for everyone. Horizon SVS offers creative opportunities and has sessions planned for 2020 such as equestrian therapy, creative writing, art and music sessions. Our peer support groups are well attended, and we know that being in contact with other survivors can help survivors feel less isolated and break the silence and legacy of abuse.

“I am learning how to cope with my past thanks to my counsellor. I am beginning to feel like the man I should be.”

The legacy of abuse can be felt by not just the survivor but by their partner’s, family members and friends. We have developed groups for families and friends of survivors who are struggling to support their loved one. Counselling services are offered in locations across Gwent and our Independent Sexual Violence Advisor’s will meet with individuals regardless of whether they want to report to police or not, at any location they feel comfortable.

Our ‘No…SH!’ (No Sexual Harassment) project, delivered in partnership with Volunteering Matters and funded by Rosa, has resulted in a position for one of our long-standing ISVA volunteers. She provides workshops to women aged 16-35 with additional needs and autism. She has supported 94 beneficiaries and 35 volunteers through the project.

During our workshops and feedback, one of the important things for those we support to be in control of their journey. They want to have options around how to access services, to understand and be part of deciding what’s available and to be able to dip in and out of services when they need to.

“When you are starting on this path, you may need to start and stop, to face the past and then withdraw from it for a while. I can do that with this service.”