Two Kirkcaldy-based charities celebrated a move to new premises by holding an open day last Friday.
Fife Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (FRASAC) and Kirkcaldy Abuse Survivors Project (KASP) are now based on the town’s High Street and welcomed many new faces on the day.
Jan Swan, centre manager, said: “The open day went really well. We were really busy and it was great to see so many people coming to look around the new premises.”
Both groups, who previously shared offices on the promenade, are well established in the town: KASP has been running for 21 years and FRASAC for 13. They offer help and support to both male and female survivors of sexual abuse.
Jan said: “KASP was created for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, whilst at FRASAC we work with anyone who has experienced rape or any form of sexual abuse from the age of 12 and up and probably focus more on rape as an adult.
“Before we started 13 years ago there was no centre in Fife to deal with that.
“When you first contact KASP you will be referred, then you will get an information session where it will be explained how long the waiting list is. After that you will be allocated a counsellor.
“FRASAC is very similar, but if you have just been raped we will try and get you on the waiting list. We have an advocacy worker who will help as a victim goes through the criminal justice system.
“Every case is different and it really depends on your life situation when you come to us.”
Both projects currently have a five month waiting list. A client will be given 24 sessions and when their allotted time comes to an end, they will be asked to go back on the waiting list if required.
Jan said: “We took this decision as we were coming very close to having to shut the waiting list. We were up to eight months but this new system seems to have brought it down thankfully.”
In dealing with clients Jan said a lot of the cases that are seen by both charities deal with historical sexual abuse.
Betty was sexually abused by her father from the age of seven until she left home at 18. Seeking help from KASP and FRASAC saved her life.
“I would think ‘well if he’s abusing me at least he’s not hitting my mum’ – so I went through life thinking it was all right.
“I threw myself into a competition to prove I loved my mum more than he did.”
As a result of the abuse Betty started taking drugs and entered into relationships earlier than she should have.
It was after the birth of her own daughter that she went to KASP.
“My dad was a big part of her life and I had nephews. I had a bit of a breakdown as I wanted to make sure that they were kept safe from him.
“It was all about other people – I was worried about what would happed to everyone else if I spoke out. I didn’t realise I needed to speak out to keep myself safe too.
“Just having someone believing and understanding me when others didn’t, and not feeling as though they need to fix it for me, kept me afloat.
“If it wasn’t for these services I don’t think I’d be alive today.”
Jan says Betty’s case is typical: “Often someone has sat on it for years. There’s a still a lot of hesitancy from people who have just been raped to come forward as they are worried they won’t be believed, or they are taking the blame as they feel the rape is their responsibility.
“Also, mental health is a high priority with our clients. A lot of people suffer mental health problems as a direct result of sexual abuse.
“It can lead to depression, fear, anxiety, panic attacks – just generally feeling unsafe and this can become a part of learned behaviour and continue for years. It becomes a coping mechanism.”
In dealing with clients the charities have altered their methods over their lifetime.
“It’s therapy and emotional support,” Jan said, “but what we have found over the last couple of years is we’ve started sharing more education – explaining how the brain and body respond to trauma.
“People genuinely think they’re going mad because they can become forgetful or unable to concentrate on anything but we explain that this is what the brain does and this helps to reassure them.”
Jan is at pains to point out that though the majority of clients are female, the service is open to both sexes.
“Absolutely. From day one we’ve said our doors are open to everyone. A male survivor of sexual assault deserves to have a service too and we see many male clients.”
With brand new premises the groups are still looking at ways of improving the service and moving forward.
Jan said: “We have a new parents’ group starting next week, though most clients prefer one-to-one, and one thing we also want to do is find a way for more people to get support before they go to the police so that they know the process they are going to go through.
“More often than not though, the legal process has already started when they come to us but we want to change that.”
She also has a simple message for anyone who thinks they might need help.
“Just pick up the phone and come and get an information session.
“That’s the hardest part, but once you start talking to us it gets easier.
“Nobody will force you to speak about anything you don’t want to – you are the manager in your life, not us.
“We will ask how are you, how are you getting through life and what can we do to help you?
“Everybody is different and everybody needs something different.”
Call 01592 644217 or visit www.kasp.org.uk.