A LIFE-CHANGING charity has seen a dramatic rise in the number of victims of rape and sex abuse being referred to it.
Lifecentre, which has a centre in Crawley, said it had seen 40-per-cent more referrals so far in 2015 compared with the same time a year ago.
Director Maggie Ellis said she felt one of the reasons for this was the large-scale public debates reported recently in the media.
“I think it’s empowered people to speak out and encouraged people that they might be believed,” she said.
“We’ve seen at Lifecentre in the past year a 40-per-cent increase in the number of people who come to us which we absolutely put down to all the media profile.”
Many of these incidents are historic cases with people referring themselves as they try to come to terms with a horror that took place in their past.
“A lot of that is driven by self referrals,” she said.
“It’s impacted us a lot. We’ve had to grow our team to keep up with the number of referrals.
“We push to do our best and not have a long waiting list.”
Its base in Crawley is at the Saturn Centre, also known as SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre), at Crawley Hospital.
There it offers counselling to anyone attending the centre who has been the victim of a rape or sexual assault.
Currently, people would have to wait a maximum of two to three months for an appointment. In the past few months, Lifecentre has doubled the number of counsellors it employs, taking the figure from ten to 20.
However, according to the charity the implication of this rise in referrals is an extra £25,000 that needs to be raised to cover the extra costs of counselling with increased demand.
The charity was started in 2001 and helps both men and woman of all ages.
Just recently, it began helping its youngest-ever child, aged just three.
For 2014, it saw 400 individuals for face-to-face counselling, aged between four and 84.
“Around a quarter of our clients are children under the age of 18,” said Mrs Ellis.
“Nearly 20 per cent are male so I think that’s really important for people to understand.
“Often people assume it’s just women who are victims of this crime but that’s not the case at all.”
She said recent NSPCC research stated the proportion of boys and girls abused as children was roughly equal.
“Our message is that this is about sexual abuse, it’s not about gender, it’s about your sexuality being violated.”
The charity helps people from across West Sussex, with counselling centres in Chichester, Worthing and Crawley. It relies on fundraising each year from authorities and donors.
For more information on Lifecentre visit www.lifecentre.uk.com.
For personal helpline support call 0844 847 7879 for people aged 18 and over, or 0808 802 0808 for children under 18.
Alternatively, email email@example.com or text 07717 989022.
To arrange face-to-face counselling or for groups, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01243 786349.
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