This week independent charity Victim Support marks the first anniversary of its service, Safe Spaces, a joint Anglican and Catholic Church in England and Wales project that provides vital support services for survivors of church-related abuse.

Since it launched on 29th September 2020, the service has supported 188 people. On average, Safe Spaces support 65 survivors each month, for various amounts of time as support is tailored to each individual and their needs.

The service comprises a team of trained support advocates, who have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence and have qualified as recognised Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA). Staff have specifically been trained in how churches respond to abuse cases and the issues affecting those who have had, or still have, a relationship with the church.

The support provided over the last year by dedicated caseworkers has included advocacy with the church and other authorities, trauma informed emotional support, information, advice and mediation, as well as connecting survivors with peer support organisations.

This has been made possible by the support of survivors who helped design and develop Safe Spaces from the beginning. Survivors have actively engaged with the service providing feedback, insight and information, and our survivor steering group has provided vital expertise in shaping and delivering the service.

Lesley McLean, Victim Support’s Area Manager, said:

”The support provided by Safe Spaces over the past year highlights the need for services supporting survivors of church-related abuse. We are immensely grateful to those survivors who have engaged with us to help shape the service, and their input, feedback and advice has been invaluable.

As we move into our second year, we want survivors who have not yet accessed our service to know how committed we are to supporting victims of church-based abuse. Safe Spaces provides specialist support, independent of the police or any faith-based institution.”

Safe Spaces is a national service for anyone aged 18 or over and who feel they have experienced church related abuse of any form in England and Wales, regardless of whether survivors have reported the incident to the Church authorities or the police or whether they are a current active member of a church. Support is provided for as long as the survivor needs. If face-to-face support is also required, contact and referrals will be made with appropriate local organisations.

The service is currently undergoing an independent evaluation commissioned by Safe Spaces England and Wales (SSEW).

Victims and survivors wishing to use the service can contact Safe Spaces anonymously through its independent helpline on 0300 303 1056, email safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk or via livechat on the service website.

Anyone wishing to take part in the SSEW evaluation can do so by taking part in the online survey found here: https://www.research.net/r/HHSJW7W.

-ENDS-

For more information, please contact Victim Support’s press office, press@victimsupport.org.uk or call 07766 070660.