Survivor slams lack of support for rape and sexual abuse victims

There is a huge demand for support services leading to long waiting lists.

There is a huge demand for support services leading to long waiting lists. - Credit: Archant

A woman who was sexually abused as a child has hit out at a lack of support and huge waiting lists for counselling in Weston.

Carie Towler has agreed to waive her right to life-long anonymity to raise awareness of the lack of help available for survivors of sexual abuse.

Carie, aged 49, suffers from mental health problems including anxiety and depression and is unable to work as a result of the abuse.

She is in desperate need of counselling, but there is currently a year-long waiting list for the Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS).

She said: "I'm trying to seek help, but it feels like I'm banging my head against a brick wall.

"I feel like there's nothing in place for people like me.

"My husband scraped money together to get some short-term private counselling, but I've got 20 years of trauma to work through and I can't get the help I feel I deserve.

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"Once you're in crisis you can't wait 12 months.

"I only got through it because I have an amazing husband and daughter who love and accept me for everything I've been through.

"That's how I have survived."

SARSAS has eight counselling spaces in Weston, but the waiting time for support is one year.

The support service runs a helpline and support groups in Bristol, but Carie suffers from anxiety when travelling so is unable to attend.

She said: "There should be a dedicated centre or support for women in our area.

"They shouldn't be forced to travel far out of the area to access it.

"I feel I need to come forward to reach out because I'm sure there are other women in the same boat as me.

"Maybe we can come together to help each other? I want to give hope to other people."

Lisa Benjamin, from SARSAS, said the demand for services increases each year, while funding does not.

She said: "All specialist sexual violence services are experiencing a huge demand for support that far outstrips what services are able to provide, for example we currently have 32 people on our waiting list for our Weston-super Mare support and only 8 lots funded.

"This is devastating for those waiting and for our team who are dedicated to supporting survivors. We want people to have the support they need when they need it.

"We also provide a helpline and e-support that people can access without waiting where you will be listened to, supported, and believed"

A North Somerset Council spokesman said support or survivors of sexual abuse is 'complicated' with services funded by a combination of Ministry of Justice, the Avon and Somerset Police Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the NHS.

More details about the support available can be found at

Carie is keen to set up a support group for survivors in Weston. She can be contacted by emailing