Our philosophy rests on the belief that sexual assault is an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust. We believe that the abuser is always 100% responsible for the abuse and that most abusers are known by the people they abuse. Sexual offenders are male in over 96% of cases of rape and 96.6% of other sexual offences (Victorian Law Reform Commission, VLRC, 2003: 65; ABS Women´s Safety Survey, 1996;) although women in a position of power and trust also abuse.
We also believe that being sexually assaulted is a deeply distressing experience and always disempowering. We acknowledge that the pain, problems and difficulties – both personal and social, which people may suffer as a result of being sexually abused, can influence their lives in many negative ways. However, survivors can and do reclaim their lives back from the effects of sexual assault.
What can you expect from us?
Laurel House offers a number of different services to survivors of sexual violence in the 63 and 64 telephone districts of Tasmania. By survivors, we mean any woman, child, or man who has ever experienced any form of sexual assault, rape or sexual harassment. We also recognise the impact of sexual violence on the lives of those non-offending family members, partners, and friends of survivors. For this reason, these people are also the survivors and are eligible to access Laurel House services.
– 24-hour crisis service for victims of recent rape or sexual assault
– Medium-long-term counselling (face-to-face or by phone)
– Support group programs for survivors
– Outreach to East Coast, George Town, West Tamar, Northern Midlands, Devonport, Queenstown, Circular Head, and other areas dependant on demand.
– Court support services including:
- Support through trial
- Liaison with legal personnel
- Victim impact statements
- Criminal Injuries Compensation Reports
- Information about court processes
– Coordination of and support through police statement
– Advocacy for survivors
– Referral and information services
– Support, supervision and information for professionals working with survivors of sexual assault
– Library services
– Community Education programmes to general community groups and schools
– Community Education programmes tailor-made to professionals in organisations on how to work with survivors of sexual assault.
How we operate
For survivors who have experienced a recent rape and/or sexual assault, counselling is made available as soon as can be arranged. A counsellor is available between 8.30 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Friday for anyone requiring crisis counselling during normal working hours. The counselling sessions are scheduled for approximately one hour each.
Appointments are between the hours of 8.30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Some out of hours appointments may be negotiated depending on workers’ availability.
Survivors are strongly encouraged to come into the Service for counselling sessions (the Service has a confidential address).
Counselling and group sessions are not confidential to the worker only, but are confidential within Laurel House. This is to allow workers to receive supervision and guidance in their work practices from other workers employed by Laurel House. Any information provided to Laurel House will not be shared with outside Services or individuals without the express written consent of the client.
What is counselling at Laurel House?
Counselling is a therapeutic conversation that aims to explore the effects of sexual assault on your life. Counselling provides a space for you to be listened to, heard and to have your experience validated. It is not expected that you will trust your counsellor immediately. Trust needs to be earned and built. It is important that in counselling sessions you feel safe and in control. Therefore the issues and goals being worked on and discussed in the session need to be those that you feel are of benefit. You will, in conjunction with your counsellor, develop an Action Plan which will outline the issues you wish to work on in order to meet your own goals. These goals will be reviewed by both yourself and your counsellor. These goals may be added to or changed as you progress through your sessions.
In the counselling sessions you have a choice about discussing the details of the sexual abuse you have experienced. Above all, the counselling needs to be useful to you. If it is not, we strongly encourage you to let your counsellor or other staff member know. You may have counselling with another worker.
A narrative approach
Our approach to counselling has been influenced by many theories and counselling techniques. Of particular influence is a way of working known as Narrative therapy. A narrative approach maintains that sexual abuse does not only deprive a person of their basic rights, but over time it can have an increasingly strong influence on how a person’s identity or perception of themselves is shaped. The abuse therefore plays a major role in creating and thus producing a person’s identity and reality.
Problems and difficulties that are experienced by survivors who have been sexually assaulted are often the result of deliberate tricks and lies by the abuser (in order to protect himself). Often abusers encourage secrecy, self-blame, guilt, mistrust, and a sense of powerlessness, as well as a sense of overall responsibility for others.
Beliefs underlying a narrative approach
– That survivors have extraordinary personal resources and strengths.
– That they use these strengths to resist and overcome the effects of sexual abuse.
– That the survivor is not the problem. People can have problems, but it does not mean that they are the problem.
– That problems are often created and stem from the teaching received from the abuser and messages received from the community.
– Problems have histories that are worth exploring, but problems are not there for a purpose. It would be inappropriate for a counsellor to suggest this.
– That survivors are the experts in their own lives.
– That survivors have the right to self-determination.
Mutual Bill of Rights
As a client of this Service, you can expect respect from workers regardless of your age, gender, culture, background, sexual orientation, religion, etc… Respect means that you will be believed, not judged, and will be supported to deal with the effects of sexual assault in your life.
Choice of workers – There are five counsellor/educators available in the North, 3 in the North-West, and we can offer some choice of counsellor. At any stage during your involvement with Laurel House, you have the right to request a change of counsellors. However, there may be times when you will have to wait for the next available appointment with another counsellor.
Confidentiality – Laurel House takes confidentiality of your private information very seriously. Any breach of your confidentiality by a counsellor or other Laurel House workers is a matter for disciplinary action against the worker. The nature of sexual assault is that privacy and confidentiality are of priority importance to survivors. All workers are required to sign a contract with Laurel House stating their commitment to and understanding of the ethics and policy of confidentiality. However, workers are mandated to report to the necessary authorities if you disclose any of the areas listed below:
- A child is at risk of, or is currently being abused/harmed
- You have started a suicide attempt
- You intend to participate in any illegal activity
At your first session with a counsellor, she will explain in detail your rights to confidentiality, and the legal requirements of the Agency.
Your Information – Given the ever-increasing numbers of people who are coming to Laurel House for counselling and support, it is necessary for us to have your name, phone number and/or address in order for us to contact you if it becomes necessary.
Notes will be kept throughout your counselling and you have the right to see them whenever you request. You can also request to have a copy of your file. These notes are kept in locked filing cabinets in locked rooms.
We are required to keep statistical information for our funding body, the Department of Health and Human Services, however no identifying information can be passed on, only numerical data (i.e. client numbers, staff service hours etc…). Your worker should go through this form with you.
Safety – You are entitled to a comfortable, safe environment that is free of any form of abuse.
We offer equal access to good quality service and free, equitable, easy access to our resources and information.
Your counselling and support needs will be met within the constraints of the Service
Laurel House is funded as a sexual assault support service. This means we work with adult survivors of sexual assault, children who have been sexually assaulted, survivors of rape, survivors of sexual harassment, and support people such as parents, siblings and partners. We also work with children displaying sexualised behaviours.
Laurel House provides a 24-hour crisis services. Between 8.30 a.m.-5.00 p.m. weekdays this service is provided by the day workers. After 5 p.m. and on weekends/public holidays the crisis phone number is 0409 800 394 for the ‘63’ region, and 6431 9711 in the North-West. The after-hours service is provided by our on call workers who work on a roster system. Upon ringing the crisis number you will reach the answering service. Leave a voice message or text, and the On Call worker will ring you back within half an hour. The after-hours crisis service is limited to crises only and is not meant to be utilised for general counselling and support.
As a client of this Service, workers can expect of you:
Confidentiality – Workers also reserve the right to confidentiality and privacy. Workers do not use their surnames and are not available outside their normal working hours. You may come into contact with other clients of this Service whilst you are using Laurel House. We request that you do not give out any information to any individual with regards to other clients’ names or addresses.
Respect and safety – It is important that Laurel House be a safe place for clients and workers. Management and workers at Laurel House reserve the right to withdraw/refuse service to any individual under the following circumstances:
– Clients who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (other than medication)
– Clients who are known to be carrying weapons will be refused entry to the Service. If it becomes known that a client carries a weapon, they will be requested to not do so when attending the Service.
– Clients who act in a perpetrative/abusive way towards workers or other service users.
– Clients who disclose that they are perpetrating against others outside of the Service. In this instance we may refer you to another more appropriate Service.
Perpetration is defined as:
Any action or threat of action which is the abuse of power over another by physical, emotional (verbal), psychological, sexual or social means and thus disempowers and adversely affects the wellbeing of that person (Youth Violence Taskforce, 1991). Clients who exhibit perpetrative behaviour will be requested to leave the Service and may have conditions placed on further contact with the Service.
Your support – We are here to support you to deal with the effects of sexual abuse in your life and we encourage you to work collaboratively with us toward this aim. We encourage you to assist us in developing both our practice and the Service by letting us know what we do that is useful/not useful and to provide us with feedback on improvements that we could make.
Why the Laurel?
Laurel Wreath definition: (antiquity) a wreath of laurel foliage worn on the head as an emblem of victory.
Ancient Graduates of Medicine received a laurel crown because it was considered a cure-all plant.
In ancient Rome, the Emperor Tiberius always wore a laurel wreath during thunderstorms, believing that it would protect him.
Worshippers of The Hellenic Goddess Nikke (normally painted with angelic wings and a `Golden` wreath upon her head) believed that she would bring them victory.