Before participating in our face to face or online gatherings, please read these thoroughly. There are three sections:
(1) General Safety Guidelines
(2) Peer Support Gatherings (for face to face meetings)
(3) Facebook Online Group Guidelines
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’. By coming together as peers, we can find and give support, strength, solidarity and voice. Survivors Voices has always been a survivor-led organisation. We believe that survivors are experts in their own healing and as such their perspectives can help others facing similar challenges. We have felt the empowerment of being heard, finding the help you need and enabling things to be better for those that come after you. 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. Our aim is 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.
These are the core values of our organisation. We commit to follow them in the way we run this peer support group and we 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 we encourage everyone to participate as much as they want to.
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. Some other organisations working with survivors have, however, 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 Survivors Voices can be as safe as possible for you and everyone else.
Responsibility for safety– for everyone involved in Survivors Voices
We all have a responsibility to do 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 to do this if we find it difficult. We also have a responsibility to report 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 and at times we may be too fragile to share in a group with other survivors. Please be aware of your own health and assess whether it is safe for you 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 Survivors Voices 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, cuddle 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 the 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 some 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 else 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, informing someone else.)
- Notice if anyone tries to find 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 a big demands on your time and passing responsibility to you for ‘saving’ them.
- Beware of anyone who makes threats or promises to try 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 Survivors Voices complaints procedure to raise any concerns you may have about your experience with the group or any aspect of Survivors Voices work.
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 support gatherings – Group 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 that you would like them to give you and honour the choices they are making as they grow and heal. Be respectful of yourself and others by talking with people not about them and by talking about 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 completely avoid triggers as they are unique to us as individuals. 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 amongs 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 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 if you disclose something that clearly identifies a child or adult is at risk of significant harm, national safeguarding responsibilities come into play. Please see our Safeguarding policy for full details.
Boundaries and Concerns
We seek to set boundaries that both enable participation as well as 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 really value your feedback about these guidelines and the way we run this group. Please speak to the facilitators through the group or via the website.
Facebook Online Group Guidelines
(some is the same as support group guidelines but some parts are different).
Respect: We are here to learn from each other and it is OK that we will have different experiences, views, problems and solutions. Please accept the contributions of other group members with the same respect that you would like them to give you, and honour the choices they are making as they grow and heal. Be respectful of yourself and others by talking with people not about them. We try to express our being real by talking about ourselves – “I felt this and the impact on me was this” rather than what’s wrong with the other person – “s/he did this and it made me feel that.”
Safety: This is a social area ~ not a therapy room – you are responsible for your safety – please take care of yourself and seek appropriate help from someone skilled when you need to. Only share what you feel comfortable saying and don’t probe or ask for personal details. While this can be a great place to vent our feelings when we are struggling, please be mindful of language and avoid sharing graphic details, so that this remains a safe and healing – not harmful – place. Please help protect others by following our Trigger Warning guidelines (in the first post). Please see our Safety Guidelines in the documents area for more suggestions about keeping yourself safe online.
This is a private group. Please maintain privacy be ensuring that what is said in the group stays confidential to the group. You may of course wish to discuss your experiences of the conversations here with your friends and supporters outside of the group; but please preserve other people’s anonymity. Please don’t name someone on these pages without their permission. Please don’t disclose the names of any members outside of this group. If you have communication with members in any other context, be careful not to disclose inadvertently. Some of us need or want to keep our membership of this group completely private.
Please be aware that if you disclose something that clearly identifies a child or adult is at risk of significant harm, national safeguarding responsibilities come into play. Please see our Safeguarding policy for full details.
Moderation and Concerns
Generally this is a lightly-moderated group. A pinned posts reminds people about managing triggering content and that their participation is dependent on agreement to these guidelines. We don’t moderate posts before they are published, although we do monitor content and we will edit/remove content that breaches our guidelines or make this an unsafe place. We reserve the right to suspend membership for severe of persistent breaches.
If you have a concern about someone’s comments or behaviour in Survivors Voices (on Facebook or at a gathering) and you can’t address that concern just with the person directly, please contact the group moderators (Jane, Concetta, Nikki, Flick) privately and we will try to resolve it. You can message one of the moderators by clicking on their name and sending them a message in the normal FB way.
This is a democratic group so we really value your feedback about these guidelines and the way we run this group. Please contact the moderators through the group or via the website.
Peer Support Group Agreement
All members of Survivors Voices’ 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 Survivors Voices group guidelines
- I am committed to my own growth and healing
- I support the Survivors Voices 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 to only 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.
Please confirm your agreement to the following:
I confirm that I am someone who has experienced inter-personal abuse, trauma or violence or a supporter of a survivor and I want to join this group for peer support. I agree to the principles upon which the group is being run, as outlined above.