COUNSELLING: Kerry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre Manager Vera O’Leary says remote trauma counselling is here to stay. Photo: Michelle Crean

By Michelle Crean

A new training programme for Kerry based counsellors has been launched to help provide specialist supports for rape survivors in a pandemic world.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI), including its member service, Kerry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre, has devised the new training and research programme to ensure there is standardised and specialist counselling for victims of sexual violence, both on and off-line, following the impact of COVID-19.

Tomorrow (Monday), a Government supported, free Zoom Q&A training opportunity will take place from 10.30am to 12 noon for counsellors and therapists.

Co-created with Dr Jessica Taylor, a UK based forensic psychologist, survivor and author of the best-selling book ‘Why Women Are Blamed for Everything’, it is specifically designed to address issues which have emerged during the lockdowns, after rape crisis centres, including the Kerry centre, had to be vacated and trauma counselling services had to move online.

Counsellors throughout Kerry are invited to register on www.rcni.ie, which is CPD accredited and completely free to participants.

Kerry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre Manager Vera O’Leary, who lives in Killarney, said that the change in the provision of counselling services had a profound impact on the quality and impact of the deep intervention needed for survivors.

There was a 23 percent increase in contacts made to rape crisis centre helplines and while almost all of those already in counselling in the centres could switch to remote counselling, some could not and so hybrid counselling is critical, Ms O’Leary said.

“While there is some optimism that a vaccine for COVID-19 may mean a return to some normality in 2021, the impact of COVID and dealing with the trauma of sexual violence within a global shared trauma of a pandemic is not going to disappear,” she said.

“Remote trauma counselling is here to stay as part of a new hybrid model of on and off clinical counselling, but it’s vital that we know that what we are doing in this new era is working, is of the highest possible standard, and is completely survivor centred.”

The training will be recognised as best practice by key stakeholders including Government and a register will be created for all those working with survivors who have completed the training.