Safeline was set up in 1994 by victims of sexual abuse who wanted to help others. We started as a helpline in a spare bedroom and over twenty years later we have helped more than 25,000 people in their journey through rape and sexual abuse.
It was in 1989 when the first step towards Safeline being created was taken. Our founder, Di Shoreman, then Senior Social Worker for Stratford-upon-Avon Mental Health Resource Centre, first began to work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. She found that many clients presenting with mental health problems had underlying issues of sexual abuse as children, not previously recognised. After listening to their stories, Di decided to establish a support group where clients could seek and receive more tailored support.
At first, Safeline worked with only women, who expressed their past experiences in poetic form, as part of their healing process. Their written thoughts were a local success, securing a £2,000 grant from Warwickshire Arts Council and their book “The Silent Scream”, a compilation of all their poetic thoughts, made it to print. These female survivors had taken back control of their lives, expressing their thoughts, possibly for the first time, publicly. From the proceeds of the book sales, the Safeline telephone helpline was set up on International Women’s Day in 1996, a proud feat in Safeline’s history; it would mean that Safeline was now in a position to help hundreds of survivors nationwide. Initially the helpline was housed in Di’s spare bedroom, running on two evenings a week. During the first year 543 calls were received, soon running into their thousands.
With Safeline’s growing success other activities soon followed suite. An information pack and newsletter were designed and distributed across Warwickshire, providing information and advice addressing a range of issues, including flashbacks, panic attacks, ritual abuse and self harm. Support was extended to families and friends of survivors of sexual abuse who may be unsure of how best to support their partner, friend or relative.
A registered charity
When it became apparent that money from the sale of ‘The Silent Scream’ would not sustain the support group for long, charity status was applied for in order to attract further funding. This coincided with Di’s early retirement from social work after 25 years in the profession. ‘Registered Charity’ and ‘Company Limited by Guarantee’ status was gained in 1998 together with a £97,000 grant from the National Lottery for a period of three years. The grant enabled recruitment of a Project Co-ordinator and Administrator, Safeline’s first employees.
Working in new settings
In March 2000, Safeline was asked to provide a counselling service to Brockhill Women’s Prison and this was established with eight volunteers working two half-days per week. This project attracted an IMPACT award of £25,000 from Smith Kline and Beecham for innovative work in Health Care. A further lottery grant was received for another three years until 2003, as well as many other awards and grants.
We now provide a range of services including:
- Therapeutic Support Groups
- Creative Therapies like Dramatherapy or Ecotherapy
- Telephone and Online Counselling
- Freephone Helpline and Online Support Services
- Early Intervention and Prevention Projects
- Information and Advice
- Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) – providing support for those wishing to report to the police
Services are offered to men, women, adults and adolescents, who are survivors of abuse. Family members and friends of survivors can also access Safeline services across the whole of Warwickshire and surrounding areas. Our Helpline and Online Support Services are offered to females in Coventry and Warwickshire and to males in England and Wales.
Over the years Safeline has moved from home working into its own dedicated premises. It has gone from strength-to-strength, building its services portfolio and pool of staff and volunteers to meet increasing client numbers. Safeline listens to survivors in order to constantly adapt the services we provide to suit individual needs.