The family support sessions are run by a professional psychotherapist and allow the family to explore together the impact of sexual violence on the family as a unit. The therapist will help family members to face what has happened and to understand ways to cope and support each other.
The impact of sexual violence goes beyond the person who has experienced the abuse. The support group offers a space to individuals who are supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence. It is a psycho-educative group, educationally focused and facilitated by one of our specialist psychotherapists. The following themes are covered:
Initially, families are met individually for a number of sessions to assess their needs and impact on them and to explore their response to the disclosure. Often families tell us of the shame and guilt they feel that sexual abuse has occurred on 'their watch'. Families can be very split in relation to the disclosure and each individual's voice needs to be heard. Individuals may then join a group with people from other families who have similar experiences. In 2016, 53 families members were assisted in this way.
Over 40% of our psychotherapy clients have been abused by a family member. The disclosure of abuse has a huge impact on the entire family. Typically family members are torn between loyalty to the offender and concern for the victim. Families are often terrified of the consequences of a disclosure within the community and fear being shunned. Sometimes families can enter a total denial of the abuse and can shun the victim while others have a more indecisive response. Families in this situation need an enormous amount of assistance both to support the victim and to ensure that the other children in the family are safe.