What’s it like phoning a rape crisis helpline? #MakeChangeHappen

Sometimes survivors are worried about calling a helpline as they don’t know what to expect. We spoke to Rebecca, who volunteers on our Rape Crisis helpline, to demystify the experience of phoning for the first time.

What do you say when you answer the phone?

As a survivor, calling the helpline can seem extremely scary and we understand this. When we pick up the phone, you will hear ‘Good morning, North London Rape Crisis, how can I help?’ and the call will begin when you are ready. Sometimes the line is busy and you may need to call back, or you can leave a voicemail and we will call you back if this is easier for you.

How would you suggest someone starts a conversation with you if they don’t know where to begin?

Talking about a traumatic experience can be overwhelming and you may feel lost for words. It is important to remember that you are in complete control of the call and can begin in any way you feel most comfortable; being open and straight to the point, talking about the weather, or in complete silence.

If it’s hard to talk about, will the worker ask questions to help me find the right words?

You may find it hard to open up to a complete stranger and not know what to say, but it is our job to help find the right words. We may ask a couple of questions to begin to open up the dialogue, but will never ask invasive questions and won’t push you if we feel you are becoming uncomfortable with the direction of the call.

Is there a limit on how many times someone can call or how long you can speak for?

There is no limit on the number of times you can call the helpline, and when you do, you will have up to an hour to speak with an advisor.

Can you see people’s numbers when they phone? Do you keep records of phone calls?

We cannot see people’s numbers when they call the helpline, therefore cannot trace calls back to see where/who they are coming from. We keep a log of each call for our own records and do not share this information with anybody else. However, if you decide to tell us that you are under 18 AND give us your full name, telephone number, school name or address, we may pass this information on to the police or social services if we think you are at risk of harm.

Does it matter how long ago someone experienced sexual violence for them to call you?

No. We understand that the effects of sexual violence are far reaching and long-lasting regardless of when it happened. As such, our helpline is available to all women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any point in their lives.

What would you say to someone who feels like they can’t call because what happened to them wasn’t “bad enough” to need help?

There is no hierarchy of abuse, and no criteria to say that what happened to you was better or worse than what happened to somebody else. Trauma is very personal and complex and we are here to support you through your experience, whatever that may have been.

What are the common fears/worries that people have when they call the helpline?

People sometimes fear that they will be judged when they call the helpline, but of course, this is not the case. We do not victim blame, shame, guilt, judge, ask you what you were wearing or tell you that you must report to the police- we are wholeheartedly on your side.

What do you think is the most important thing for callers to know when they contact you for the first time?

Reaching out to the helpline after a trauma is an incredibly brave step towards seeking the help that you deserve. Although you may feel alone, when you call the helpline, you will always be speaking to somebody who believes you, who understands you and who supports you, no matter what.

How have women said the helpline has helped them?

Women have found that the helpline has helped them to make sense of what has happened to them. It has empowered them and allowed them to seek help; it has given them encouragement, advice and a confidential, non-judgemental space to speak. Solace Rape Crisis service not only provide a helpline, but a lifeline; we endeavour to give survivors a voice and support when they need it most.

Solace Rape Crisis Freephone Helpline

0808 801 0305

The Rape Crisis service at Solace is a free service and supports women and girls over the age of 13 who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their lives. Whether this was in childhood, 5 years ago or yesterday. We will support you to live free from sexual violence and make the choices that are right for you and help you to recover from what you’ve experienced.

For more information about Solace Rape Crisis click here