by Kate Hardy, Communications and Campaigns Officer at The Survivors Trust

The Survivors Trust is a non-profit, national membership organisation for specialist rape and sexual abuse services. We are a small team with a big heart and vision for improving access to specialist services for survivors of rape, sexual abuse and assault.  We have over 120 member charities throughout the UK and Ireland who offer a range of services to people who have experienced sexual violence, abuse and exploitation.  

Our members, like STARS Dorset, help support over 100,000 survivors each year by providing specialist services including: counselling; group support; Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and survivor workshops.  

We pride ourselves on ensuring there is specialist support available for everyone affected by sexual violence or abuse, which is why our members work with survivors of all genders, ages and backgrounds – regardless of how long ago the experience happened. Many of our members also provide support and counselling for partners, parents/carers and family members. 

Where did it all begin? 

In 2000, it was hit and miss whether survivors could find the specialist support they needed to help them recover from sexual trauma. The services that were available often worked in isolation which meant many were unable to source the funding and resources they needed, so in a difficult financial climate, many services were forced to close. 

It was during this time the managers of six small specialist charities came together to offer peer support to each other. This included offering advice on managing trauma services and sharing information about how to gain funding. 

From this collaboration, The Survivors Trust has evolved to help connect, and provide infrastructure support to organisations that offer specialist services to survivors.  We are now proud to provide a collective voice, peer networking and infrastructure support to over 120 member charities across the UK.  

At present, there is sadly still a long way to go in ensuring survivors of sexual abuse and violence get the support they deserve, but through our work we are committed to achieving this much-needed change.  

What does our work involve? 

Rape and sexual abuse are devastating experiences and the impact may last for a lifetime without the right kind of support at the right time. Our charity vision is for a society where: 

  • Everyone understands the issues around rape and sexual abuse and the impact these crimes have on survivors and society.
  • Every survivor can easily access specialist sexual violence counselling and support near to where they live, free of charge and for as long as it is needed.

We work to achieve this vision by collaborating with survivors and our members. Broadly speaking, our work consists of five key elements: supporting survivors; connecting specialists; education and training; campaigning for change and providing a collective national voice. 

Supporting Survivors: We offer free, confidential emotional support and information to all survivors of sexual violence and sexual abuse through a National Helpline and Live Chat service.  These services offer a safe, inclusive space for people of all genders and backgrounds. Whether a survivor wants to discuss a particular challenge, find out about the different types of support available or just wants a chat, our helpline volunteers are there to listen. We also welcome calls from professionals and a survivor's friends or family.  

Connecting Specialists: Many of our members are small, local charities, with years of experience. We aim to ensure they do not work in isolation and can benefit from being part of the collective network of The Survivors Trust. We liaise closely with our members by hosting dedicated forums for CEOs and trustees to encourage knowledge sharing and networking opportunities. We also provide infrastructure support to our members to offer guidance in areas such as service provision and access to funding.  

Education & Training: We’re passionate about ensuring all areas of society understand the impact of sexual violence and abuse and are able to provide trauma-informed responses to disclosures, and offer high-quality support when necessary. To achieve this, we deliver accredited training to members, government agencies, police, health professionals and schools. This includes our accredited Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) training and Trauma-informed Accreditation for employers and educators.  

Campaigning for Change:  Despite the fact it is 2022, there is sadly still stigma and misunderstanding surrounding sexual violence and abuse. We help raise awareness of these crimes and their impact on survivors, their supporters and society at large, and lobby for effective responses to rape and sexual abuse on a local, regional and national level. One of our current campaigns, #CheckWithMeFirst involves working with NHS healthcare professionals to improve accessibility of healthcare services for survivors by raising awareness of the importance of trauma-informed care.  

Providing a National Collective Voice: A large part of the work we do involves providing a collective voice for the sexual violence and abuse voluntary sector. We use our position as a membership organisation to listen to, and amplify the voices of survivors and the specialist services (our members) who support them. This ensures we are able to bring awareness to the key challenges they face, particularly within the Justice System and challenges around access to long-term funding. 

We work closely with organisations such as The Ministry of Justice, the Police and the NHS to get the needs of survivors and frontline services heard by those in positions of power. The Survivors Trust CEO Fay Maxted has a pivotal role in influencing policy and sits on a number of key panels. Fay was even awarded an OBE in 2015 “for services to survivors and victims of rape and sexual violence” and continues to pursue positive change for survivors.  

This offers a small glimpse into The Survivors Trust and the work we do. Ultimately, survivors are at the heart of everything we do at The Survivors Trust and we will continue to advocate for survivors and the services that support them in any way we can.  

More information about The Survivors Trust can be found here -  

To find a member organisation offering specialist sexual violence and abuse support services in your area please visit -  

For further information and opening times of our free, confidential Helpline and Live Chat service please visit -