I went out for a meal last night, with Linda our Chair and "M" an ex-service user. It's quite an unusual thing to do but then it is quite an unusual situation and I think we are quite an unusual organisation.
We've been going as an organisation for nearly 5 years and "M" has been involved with us in one way or another for about 4 of those years. She was initially a service user and now, although not receiving a formal therapeutic service from us, maintains her contact by coming in several times a year. I think organisations like ours are unusual as we can remain accessible to people even if they have ceased their formal work with us. It is not something that we seek but in the delivery of a very real and human service, real relationship occurs and this is - and is felt to be - important.
It means we get cards months down the line, it means that women call in to tell us about big events in their lives; attending a trial, forming a relationship, going to university, it means we are thrilled to hear good news. It means that sometimes, women who have felt sufficiently recovered to end support know that they can come back at any time, knowing they will receive the same skilled compassion and belief. It means that women who use our service have a sense of the real humanity within the organisation and know that we will be interested in what happens in their lives next, whether it is good or not so good.
I think that "M" has this sense of us. She maintains a link with a worker 4 times a year as an acknowledgement and respect of the two years of intense work done together. "M" also uses the helpline and email support service if she needs to and occasionally asks us for some very practical assistance with medical appointment. But alongside this she has also spent the last year raising an enormous amount of money for us. Through her fundraising Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services are £7,420 better off and we couldn't be more proud of her.
Sadly, because of her safety needs, "M" can't be identified and so we couldn't take a photo for the press or our website and recognise her in that very public way. Linda and I were very keen that she felt our real human gratitude - hence the meal- which was lovely!
Thank you M.