Patient and Public Involvement

Research in the area of sexual abuse and assault meets many challenges; one important aspect is adopting a research process that prioritises participants’ needs, and simultaneously leads to high-quality outputs that are meaningful to survivors, their families and communities and bring new insights to professionals, organisations and policy-makers concerned about sexual violence and abuse. To achieve this approach and these outcomes, the project engages with a dedicated group of lived experience partners. These are people we’ve met through different organisations, events and networks. There are several ways in which the lived experience group informs and shapes the research from the co-production of materials and videos for recruiting professionals and survivors to gathering and analysis of data. Importantly, lived expertise is embedded within the main project team. The project team, LEG members and co-investigators also value the input of specialist organisations and those led by survivors. For example, we are constantly expanding our awareness of sexual abuse and seek to enhance our approach to the safe and ethical conduct of the research through regular engagement with Survivors’ Voices and by drawing on their Charter.

Meet some of our lived experience partners here:

Gillian Finch 

As someone with lived experience I know how important it is for those currently seeking help and support to receive appropriate care from and during their visit to a SARC. Whilst many victims/ survivors of sexual crimes will not need to access a SARC it is crucial that those who do are able to express what helped them, and where changes need to be made. SARCs need to remain victim focused and the MESARCH study will ensure that they continue to develop how best to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of victims attending such centres.

Sam Thompson 

“I believe this piece of research to be so important for so many different reasons for so many different people but as a male survivor of rape, and as someone that has accessed a SARC to provide forensic evidence, for me this research is significant because it will highlight the lack of service provision for males victims in particular areas of the country. Then once we have that information it can be built on, improving the services available for other people like me.”

Sam, a survivor himself, has engaged with media worldwide to share his story in a bid to encourage other men to break their silence and seek support. He has focused on challenging some of the myths surrounding male rape using his own experience to channel more progressive and forward-thinking conversations.

Sam is a founding trustee of the Male Survivors Partnership and has been an advisor and facilitator to a number of panels and projects in the UK, including Coronation Street on the David Platt storyline, which featured elements of his own story. Sam also participated in BAFTA nominated documentary “Raped: My Story”, and in 2017 he became an Ambassador for Survivors Manchester. Sam also contributed to and featured in the Victim Strategy which was launched last year.

Nicola Herbert

SARCs and other support services can only excel when the experiences of those who have been helped, guided and supported by what they have to offer are listened to and acted upon. A SARC provides a unique service in the care for those who have experienced sexual abuse and assault. As a survivor I am privileged to be included in such a ground breaking research programme that can only deliver constructive, effective survivor led changes to produce a stronger more effective support network for those who seek help.

As a survivor who had no voice for 36 years, I am now happy to speak up, to change the narrative in such a taboo subject. I help individuals and organisations involved in this arena, who want to listen to a lived experience viewpoint push for better practices, change and support.

Hannah Harris

Hi I’m Hannah.I am a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.

As a Survivor I share my life and healing along-side the professional knowledge I gained from over thirty years of working with other Survivors in specialised venues and services on a one to one basis, and group work.

I retired from my paid job after a diagnosis and treatment for cancer and as a volunteer have recently co-founded a training CIC company called Healing Our Way. We have the hope and intention of HOW being a source of funding for established groups working with Survivors of Sexual Violence.

All of our training is delivered by both survivors who are experts via experience, and by trainers with many years experience in therapeutic trauma work. We deliver training and talks at conferences throughout the UK.

‘I champion trauma informed care for all services for Survivors of Sexual Violence after getting a diagnosis of Complex PTSD during a diagnosis and treatment of cancer.’

I am really honoured to be part of this brilliant research project that will ultimately keep growing and improving services for Survivors.’

‘I would also like to say over the years that I have been on my healing journey, learning to have a voice has been empowering and healing. If you have used the SARC services in the areas of our research please consider joining us by taking part. Help us to keep our SARC services growing and developing to make them as trauma informed as possible. Thank you.’