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Red Kite: New Bishop's Stortford helpline for rape and sexual abuse victims appeals for volunteers and funding

A support service for survivors of rape and sexual abuse is appealing for volunteers to staff its helpline.

Red Kite, based in Bishop's Stortford, officially launches on Monday (December 14) with telephone support rather than the face-to-face help envisaged when the project was first planned before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 lockdown has emphasised the importance of its work, according to one of the founders, deputy chair and treasurer Dr Sue Rayner Jacobs.

Red Kite trustees, from left, deputy chair Dr Sue Rayner Jacobs, Cllr Norma Symonds and chair Siobhan Nundram
Red Kite trustees, from left, deputy chair Dr Sue Rayner Jacobs, Cllr Norma Symonds and chair Siobhan Nundram

She spent four years as head of rape and human trafficking funding policy in the victims and witnesses department at the Ministry of Justice and worked closely with Rape Crisis (England & Wales) and The Survivors Trust to fund the opening of around 20 rape support centres.

"Our launch is starting small with a limited number of hours while we build our service capacity and train our volunteers. By mid-2021 we hope to be offering a more comprehensive helpline and therapy service," said Dr Rayner Jacobs.

"This is an essential service during these times. Many victims are trapped in their houses with their abusers, and it is tempting to resort to dire measures such as drug or alcohol abuse or self-harm just to get through the days. We aim to be their lifeline to recovery."

She is one of a board of five trustees which also includes town and East Herts district councillor Norma Symonds and retired consultant psychiatrist and Stortford resident Omar Daniels.

Chair Siobhan Nundram, also from Stortford, has 43 years' experience delivering mental health services and has worked extensively with survivors of abuse.

The aim is to support victims of recent and historic rape and sexual abuse and violence in East, North and South Hertfordshire.

"We're grateful for the support we've received from local councillors, Herts County Council community fund and other funders who are making this service possible through their generous financial support," said Siobhan. "They all recognised the need for an independent rape and sexual abuse service across the east of the county."

Red Kite wants to form 'relationships' with small businesses looking to give to a charity where their funding will make a significant difference.

As well as appealing for grants and donations, the project wants to recruit helpline volunteers who will be trained to offer grounding techniques, mental health first aid and well-being advice. They will also be able to make referrals to other organisations on the caller's behalf where necessary.

Red Kite's treatment service will be delivered by fully qualified counsellors who will offer a range of therapies to enable victims to process their experiences and learn how to manage them.

The helpline number, which will operate from December 14, is 01279 790450. Callers will be able to leave a message when volunteers are not available. All calls will be secure and information is protected.

To donate, see https://www.givey.com/redkitesupport.

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