Safety and Group Guidelines

Before participating in gatherings, please read these thoroughly.  These guidelines have been drawn up by our partner Survivor Voices. There are two sections:

(1) General Safety Guidelines

(2) Peer Support Gatherings

We ask everyone participating to confirm to us by email that they have read and agree to the guidelines as part of their participation. If you have any questions, please do get in touch and we will do our best to answer them.

General Safety Guidelines

What do we mean by peer support and enlightened self-help?

Self-help groups exist for many of life’s challenges.  They are run by and for people with a common experience rather than ‘professional experts’. We can find and give support, strength, solidarity and voice by coming together as peers. Little Ro has always been a survivor-led organisation. We believe that survivors are experts in their healing; their perspectives can help others facing similar challenges. We have felt the empowerment of being heard, finding the help we need and enabling things to be better for those that come after us. We recognise the shared perspective of anyone who has experienced abuse and the power of sharing stories with those who understand.

We call this enlightened self-help and this peer support gathering is one way we provide it. We aim to provide a safe, inclusive and supportive community for anyone who has experienced abuse and trauma.

Self-help groups are not ‘therapy’ or ‘counselling’, or a substitute for professional or medical help where needed. We see this group as a helpful accompaniment and one part of a pattern of help and support we may need at different times on our healing journey.

Support Group Values

We commit to following them in how we run our peer support groups and ask all members to do so too.

We trust the wisdom of each individual on their journey of recovery, healing and development.

We can all offer and benefit from mutual support, especially with others who share similar experiences.

We are committed to the inclusion of all in all our diversity (e.g. gender, age, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, experience, culture, all faiths or none).

We will promote a safe space based on a culture of tolerance, mutual respect and co-operation.

We recognise spirituality and faith as a source of justice, strength and healing for many.

We seek to remove barriers that divide people and encourage everyone to participate as much as they want.

We encourage everyone to reflect on what helps you to stay safe and feel safe – both in the self-help group setting and outside of it (e.g. phone calls, emails, Facebook group).  We all have different experiences and expectations of people, and new situations may be outside of our experience or comfort zone. We may be vulnerable and not able to protect ourselves well, easily triggered by others or putting ourselves or others at risk through our behaviour.

We expect that the vast majority of people who will contact Survivors Voices will be genuine survivors wanting to meet others for mutual support, just as in other survivor services. However, some other organisations working with survivors have had contact with people with harmful intentions and who have caused problems for survivors and supporters. We do not want anyone to be scared by this, but we ask you to think carefully about these safety and confidentiality guidelines so that our groups can be as safe as possible for you and everyone else.

Responsibility for safety

We are all responsible for doing whatever we can to keep ourselves safe.  We have a responsibility not to say or do anything that may put others in danger (for example by passing on personal information inappropriately). Others can try to support us in doing this if we find it difficult. We are also responsible for reporting any abuse involving children or vulnerable adults.

There are two kinds of risks – the internal risk from ourselves, because of our vulnerability or our state of health at any time. Also, the external risks from other people, those whose vulnerability or behaviour may be a trigger for us and those that may actually wish us harm.

Reducing the risks

The experience of abuse and trauma often leads us to be vulnerable. Many of us will struggle with mental and physical health issues; at times, we may be too fragile to share in a group with other survivors. Please be aware of your health and assess whether it is safe to attend before each group meeting or gathering.  You may have a supporter who can help you to decide this.

Things we can do to manage our own ‘internal’ risks :

  • Follow the  Group Guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Try to be sensitive to other members’ triggers. Do not engage in self-harm-type behaviour during group sessions/gatherings.
  • Be aware of our own vulnerability and fragility and be honest with ourselves and others about it. Seek help and support when we need it.
  • Tell a trusted supporter we are attending a gathering that may be challenging/upsetting. Arrange to speak with them afterwards to debrief.
  • Use self-care and grounding techniques before, during and after the group e.g. a relaxing bath, a walk in nature, soothing music, cuddling a favourite toy, mindful colouring.
  • Respect our own and others’ personal boundaries. Do not touch/hug unless asked to do so. Listen as well as talk. Accept as well as offer support. Be aware if you start to try to ‘rescue’ someone or angle for them to ‘rescue’ you. It is not healthy or appropriate to expect a peer to rescue you.
  • If things are triggering or upsetting during group time, do whatever you need to keep safe. Take time out if you need to. Use a self-care technique. Please let someone else in the group know if you decide to leave early.

Others may pose a risk because we are vulnerable and fragile; or, more rarely, because of bad intent. The following guidelines will help us to reduce the risk from other people for whatever reason:

  • Do not share personal contact details (full name, address, telephone number etc.) until you have got to know someone well and have good reason to believe you can trust them.
  • Be aware of anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. You may discuss your feelings about the situation with the group facilitator or someone you trust. Trust your instincts and be cautious until you can check it is safe.
  • Notice if anyone tries to ‘rescue’ or ‘counsel’ others, especially when they appear to be in chaos themselves. It is not healthy for peers to do that.
  • Be very careful if anyone asks you to meet someone outside of the group who they claim will be able to “help” you. (If you decide to meet someone else, please take precautions such as checking out who they are, and informing someone else.)
  • Notice if anyone tries to find out about survivors you are in contact with in a way that seems negative and manipulative. Respect the confidentiality of other people.
  • Be careful if anyone does not respect your boundaries, especially if you have already expressed them clearly and politely but to no effect (e.g. if someone shares lots of details of traumatic abuse and doesn’t stop when asked.)
  • Beware of anyone who leaves you feeling guilty if you do not contact them often or who you feel manipulated by. Be careful if someone is making big demands on your time and passing responsibility to you for ‘saving’ them.
  • Beware of anyone who makes threats or promises to get you to do something you do not want to do.
  • If you are aware of having dissociative parts of yourself please do what you can to support, reassure and keep those parts of you safe
  • Please use the Survivors Voices complaints procedure to raise any concerns about your experience with the group.

Remember:

You are not responsible for helping every single person.

We all have the right to choose what feels comfortable for us.

Try not to allow yourself to be manipulated and put under pressure.

Trust your instincts, and protect yourself if something does not feel right.

Take care of yourself and ask for support if you need it.

Peer Group Support Guidelines

Respect: We are here to learn from each other and it is OK for each of us to have different experiences, views, problems and solutions. Please accept the contributions of others with the same respect you would like them to give you and honour the choices they make as they grow and heal. Be respectful of yourself and others by talking with people, not about them and your own experiences. Stick to using ‘I’ statements eg. “I felt this and the impact on me was this” rather than making ‘you’ statements about others. This includes refraining from advice giving (eg. ‘you should do x’).

Safety: This is a social, peer support space ~ not a therapy room. Each of us is responsible for our own safety and participation and are encouraged to seek appropriate support outside of gatherings. During the gathering, there is no pressure to talk about your experiences of abuse. Drawing strength from just ‘being’ with others who understand is totally OK as is talking freely about our journeys – but without graphic details of abuse so that the sharing space feels as safe as possible. Only share what you feel comfortable saying and don’t probe or ask others for personal details. It is impossible to avoid triggers as they are unique to us completely. If you find something triggering or upsetting it is ok to say so (“I find that x causes this reaction in me”) and to do whatever you need to keep safe. Take time out if you need to (someone will pop out and check to see how you are). Please let someone else in the group know if you decide to leave early. If you are aware of having dissociative parts of yourself please do what you can to support, reassure and keep those parts of you safe.

Confidentiality:  Many of us may need or want to keep our experiences and participation at this gathering completely private. Please maintain privacy by ensuring that what is shared among us remains confidential. You may of course, wish to discuss your experiences of the conversations here with other friends and supporters; but please preserve other people’s anonymity. Please don’t name someone at this gathering without their permission or disclose the names of any participants outside of this group. If you have communication with others in any other context, be careful not to disclose information inadvertently. Please be aware that national safeguarding responsibilities come into play if you disclose something that clearly identifies a child or adult at risk of significant harm. Please see our Safeguarding policy for full details.

Boundaries and Concerns

We seek to set boundaries that enable participation and keep us all safe. People aren’t vetted before attending but everyone is required to agree to these guidelines and we will take whatever action is appropriate to address any behaviour that breaches these guidelines or threatens personal safety. We reserve the right to suspend participation for severe or persistent breaches. If you have a concern about someone’s comments or behaviour during the gathering and it isn’t possible to address this directly with the person concerned, please inform our facilitators, who will try to resolve the issue. If you are still unhappy please see our complaints process; details are on the Reshapers/Survivors Voices websites.

This is a democratic group, so we value your feedback about these guidelines and how we run this group. Please speak to the facilitators through the group or via the website.

Peer Support Agreement

All members of our peer support and self-help groups and events are asked to affirm their agreement to the following in order to make the group a safe space for everyone:

  • I will follow the group guidelines
  • I am committed to my own growth and healing
  • I support the Little Ro’s Values and Aims
  • I will respect the confidentiality of members by not repeating any personal or identifying information of another member.
  • I will treat others with respect and accept other members for who they are and whatever stage of healing they are at.
  • I take responsibility for my own needs and not for other people’s.
  • I will try only to give positive, non-judgemental feedback and avoid giving advice.
  • I understand the group comes under Survivors Voices Safeguarding procedures.
  • I will not contact people outside of the group without their freely-given permission.
  • I will respect individual and group boundaries and use the group safety guidelines to keep myself and others safe.

By joining the group you confirm your agreement to the following:

I confirm that I am someone who has experienced interpersonal abuse, trauma or violence or a supporter of a survivor, and I want to join this group for peer support. As outlined above, I agree with the principles upon which the group is being run.