When the coalition government came to power in 2010, one of the very first commitments they made was to increase the availability of support to survivors of rape and sexual violence through the opening of 15 new Rape Crisis Centres over the course of the parliament.
Devon was one of the first of these to open up in 2011 after the Ministry of Justice provided start-up funding for three years.
The service was much needed because, although there had been a Rape Crisis helpline in Exeter, it had closed some years before due to lack of funding.
Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services initially started with trustees made up of members of Fawcett Devon who had skills and interests in the area of supporting survivors of sexual violence. This group of trustees set our foundations by adopting a constitution, finding an office base and recruiting paid staff.
The staff team of three started in the summer of 2011 and by the autumn, volunteers were being trained by our sister rape crisis organisation from Cornwall, publicity was being designed and policies and procedures were being developed.
By the time the telephone helpline opened for business in December 2011, we had a group of skilled volunteers, an effective supervision and support structure and a safe and professional service on offer.
Since that first hectic 6 months the pace hasn't slackened much as there is so much to do to build and develop a quality organisation offering specialist services. We have since;
• Developed our own, in-house core training programme which has been accredited by the Open College Network London. We have trained over 100 women volunteers and have approximately 22 active volunteers at any one time
• Expanded the staff team from 3 to 14 workers and our services to include counselling and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing and group work
• Opened two new offices in Torquay and Barnstaple
• Expanded our Exeter office to cover two floors and include 5 bespoke specialist support rooms and a group work room
• Developed our systems for evaluating the impact of our services
• Expanded our service to include specialist counselling for young people
• Expanded our service to support anyone irrespective of sex or gender identity
• Achieved the Rape Crisis (England and Wales) National Service Standards
• Expanded and developed our Board of Trustees
• Won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June 2019