Suggested key messages
fundamental key messages
Depending on all of the factors , and with an understanding that specific individuals with specific needs will need specific communications, there may be some fundamental key messages that you want your communications to convey.
These may include (but are not exhaustive):
- Sexual harm and the trauma associated with it can be devastating, and whilst a person’s experience may forever alter their life, with hope, compassion and support, it may not have to dictate or dominate their future.
- Every person is so much more than the trauma they have experienced.
- Every human being has the right to live without fear of sexual harm.
- No person has the right to sexually harm another person, ever.
- Sex should always be consensual, mutual, and never harmful.
- Consent is not optional; it is a legal requirement.
- Freeze, flop and fawn can be the brain’s way of trying to protect us from danger, so not saying “no”, not ‘fighting back’ and not trying to ‘run away’ does not mean that someone consents to sex.
- Help and support is available, regardless of whether or not someone chooses to report their experience to the police.
- If someone is not comfortable contacting the police about what they have experienced, there are other organisations who can still offer help and support such as Sexual Assault Referral Centres, and a diverse range of other groups (including charities).
- Sexual Assault Referral Centres can support individuals and, depending on when the harm has taken place, they may be able to take forensic samples, meaning that even if someone is not ready to talk with the police now, if they think that they may wish to in the future, there could be some forensic evidence made then available to the police to help them with their investigation. Anyone can find their local SARC service online at nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/Rape-and-sexual-assault-referral-centres/LocationSearch/364.
- A large proportion of sexual offences and the harm they cause, happen in the home.
- Picking up a phone, going online or walking into a building and asking for help, for anyone experiencing (or who has experienced) sexual harm, is courageous.
- Consent can only ever take place when there is equal power between people and it can be withdrawn at any time.
- Trauma is a natural human response which affects individuals in unique ways and every person’s experience of trauma will be different. There is no ‘right’ way when it comes to experiencing trauma or living with it.
- It can be natural for individuals who have experienced sexual harm to behave and make decisions that they would not have done previously, and which other people may find difficult to understand or consider to be ‘out of character’.
- Individuals (ie family members and friends) who are supporting someone who has experienced sexual harm, may be struggling themselves and it is important for them to keep their own physical and emotional health safe and well, and to reach out if they need some support. Rape Crisis Scotland have produced ‘supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence: information for partners’ which is available at rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/resources/RCS-003-Information-for-Partners-logos-WEB.pdf. Information about supporting a survivor has also been produced by Rape Crisis England and Wales at www.rape.crisis.org.uk/get-help/looking-for-information/supporting-a-survivor/. The Survivors Trust also offer practical guidance at www.thesurvivorstrust.org/how-to-support-a-survivor.
- Stop It Now! stopitnow.org.uk can support anyone struggling with their own, or a loved one’s sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards children. They also provide support to anyone worried about a child or young person’s sexual behaviour around other children.
- Regardless of what some pornography may depict, power and control are not healthy aspects of sex when they are used to the detriment and to the harm of another person or people.
- Online pornography is not real life – it is people acting and performing so it is important to understand what is healthy in ‘real life’ and not to use pornography in an attempt to justify sexual harm.
- Anyone can anonymously and confidentially report online child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images to the Internet Watch Foundation at iwf.org.uk
- There are many reasons adults don’t report concerns they have about a child or young person being sexually harmed, fear of making a mistake being one of them but when we choose to do nothing we enable abuse. For stories relating to children and young people, encourage adults to report concerns to the police or anonymously to CrimeStoppers.
- Anyone who is concerned that a vulnerable adult may be at risk of sexual harm or another form of abuse or neglect can contact the confidential national Hourglass Service by phone, text, live chat and email (details at wearehourglass.org) or contact CrimeStoppers anonymously.
- For anyone who is experiencing or has experienced sexual harm, and wants to know what their practical options are (e.g. they may need to find a new home to escape the person harming them), there are organisations that can provide this information.
- We should have practical and positive conversations with our children and those we care for, about healthy relationships and how to identify and deal with harmful sexual attitudes and behaviours. It is not enough to say that something ‘is not ok’ if we do not equip children and young people with the practical skills that they may need to manage conversations and what can be very challenging situations.
- If a family member or friend is concerned that someone they care about is in an abusive relationship, or is at risk of harm from their partner, they can make an enquiry with the police under the Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare’s Law. The police will consider the request and check their records, and they may also speak with other professionals. If the police consider it appropriate, they can share information with a third party (like a parent or friend) using Clare’s Law, if it is needed to prevent someone from being harmed. Further details about Disclosure Schemes/Clare’s Law can be found on most police websites.
- There are compassionate non-judgemental individuals working and volunteering in a range of support services, many of which are charities, that can provide practical help, support and guidance to individuals who have experienced sexual harm. These include Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (it is important to provide details of what specifically these services can offer, as being vague does not help an individual to consider their choices).
- No matter what the circumstances, sexual harm can never be justified or excused and someone who has experienced it is not to blame.
- If someone’s experience of sexual harm is causing them to think about harming themselves or taking their life, there can be hope for the future even though that may not seem possible today, and there are people in services who will listen and care. Individuals wishing to talk in confidence can speak with the Samaritans on telephone 116 123 or online chat at samaritans.org.
- Because every case is unique, justice in a court can never be guaranteed, but whatever the result, reporting sexual harm to the police can be a way of giving some power back to an individual who has been sexually harmed because it requires the person who has harmed them, to speak with the police and account for themselves and their actions.
- For adults, ‘revenge porn’ is a crime and it is when someone has or is threatening to share private sexual images or films of someone without their consent, and with the intention of causing them harm and distress. A national helpline is available on telephone 0845 6000 459.
- It is important for children and young people to know the law relating to ‘sexting’ which exists to protect them. Whilst children and young people may be asked by their peers to share indecent images of themselves, this is against the law (as is asking for such an image and possessing it). Advice for professionals when preparing responses to sexting is available form the NSPCC at learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/briefings/sexting-advice-professionals. Advice for parents is available from Childnet International at childnet.com/parents-and-carers/hot-topics/sexting.
- There are many individuals and organisations campaigning for change and driving action to prevent sexual offences and sexual harm in our communities, who have their own interesting and insightful stories to tell.
- All of us can help to end sexual harm in a number of ways – by teaching our children about healthy relationships and how to treat others with respect and compassion; by calling out sexually harmful ‘banter’ as misogyny if we feel it safe to do so; and by being positive role models to others.