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Support service for survivors of abuse marks landmark anniversary

Fiona Ellis, co-founder of Survivors in Transition  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Fiona Ellis, co-founder of Survivors in Transition Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Ten years ago, we reported the launch of a new drop-in centre offering support for women who had survived child sexual abuse.

Clare Wilson, co-founder and operations manager of Survivors in Transition, at the Access Community Awards 2019  Picture: ACTION COMMUNITY TRUSTClare Wilson, co-founder and operations manager of Survivors in Transition, at the Access Community Awards 2019 Picture: ACTION COMMUNITY TRUST

Since then, Ipswich-based Survivors in Transition has grown into an acclaimed charity with a team of support centre staff providing therapy and counselling to all adults, while leading campaigns and working to influence decision making.

Fiona Ellis founded Survivors in Transition with Clare Wilson after recognising a gap in services for adults living with the trauma of child sex abuse.

The Survivors in Transition support centre in Fore Street  Picture: KARL LAMBThe Survivors in Transition support centre in Fore Street Picture: KARL LAMB

“We hired a room at Saracens House Business Centre,” said the charity chief executive.

“At that stage, we probably had more willing volunteers than clients. We were ticking along fine in a voluntary capacity, but started to grow with demand.”

Ipswich borough councillor Liz Harsant officially opening the drop-in centre in Dickens Road in January 2011  Picture: SiTIpswich borough councillor Liz Harsant officially opening the drop-in centre in Dickens Road in January 2011 Picture: SiT

Demand soared following the launch of investigations into child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile in 2012 as more survivors came forward to seek support and justice.

“In that same year, driven by demand, we started offering services for men,” said Ms Ellis, who explained the complexity of cases, dealt with therapeutically and through safeguarding, had also changed dramatically.

How the team are meeting daily during lockdown  Picture: SiTHow the team are meeting daily during lockdown Picture: SiT

The charity now employs 10 staff and utilises the services of about 20 sub-contracted therapists, while still working to improve wider understanding and perception around the issue of sexual abuse in childhood.

In the last 10 years, a total of 3,123 people have been in contact with Survivors in Transition.

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In 2016, the Office for National Statistics conducted the first research of its kind and found 7% of adults told the Crime Survey of England and Wales they were sexually assaulted in childhood.

Ms Ellis said rising demand had been recognised by the formation of an All-Party Parliamentary Group for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, as well as through funding commitments from the Ministry of Justice.

She said work was still to be done around education and acknowledgement to enable the disruption of child sex abuse, and around poor conviction rates in the wider justice system, but that the police were now far more attentive to survivors’ needs.

And the charity’s message remains the same after a decade: “Don’t suffer on your own. We will meet you where you’re at, with no pressure,” said Ms Ellis.

“However difficult it is, get in touch.”

When lockdown began, Survivors in Transition implemented measures to continue offering support when many people were being urged to isolate themselves to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, who each year allocates more than £800,000 to address domestic abuse and sexual violence, and gave £60,000 to Survivors in Transition (SiT) for 2019/20, said the charity had made a significant contribution to making the county a better place.

Mr Passmore said: “I’d like to congratulate SiT on their 10th anniversary and wish them well for the next 10 years.

“Fiona and the team do a wonderful job supporting men and women who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood.

“Having spoken to many of their clients, I know SIT’s work makes a huge impact on helping survivors come to terms with what has happened and rebuild their lives.

“SIT make a significant contribution to making Suffolk a better place and I am really grateful for all they do.”


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