What’s our project creating?

Project updates and publications

August 2020 – March 2021

We have benefitted from a very committed project team, helpful support from SARCs, third sector staff and agencies across England, and the enormous willingness and courage of those affected by issues of sexual abuse. This has led to several important developments in the project over the past eight months.

We fulfilled our aim and gathered anonymous data from 2,500 people who attended Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) in England.

Project webinar
This work along with other preliminary findings will be unveiled at a knowledge-sharing webinar on Wednesday 12th May 2021 from 10am – 1pm. For more information, please visit here.


Mesarch 2 year follow up study
The number of people choosing to participate in the study doubled in 6 months. There are now just under 200 survivors of sexual violence and abuse from around the country enrolled in the study that will follow their health and wellbeing over two years.

We often ask participants what participation in the research means to them. Here are some of their comments:

After a history of assault, I think I was more frustrated by it. I just wanted to do something productive and so I contacted SARC about the project. I feel the research is empowering me. I don’t feel the shame I used to feel about the abuse. It’s a heavy weight to hold on your own; having this dialogue, in a way that will help others, is just very good.” (New mesarch participant, February 2021)

I found the research process cathartic. Whilst I feel I am doing well on my healing journey, the questions asked gave me significant food for thought, it really encouraged me to reflect on events over the last 12 months and to take things slowly. The researcher was compassionate throughout and made me feel at ease at all times during the session. I look forward to the next session, it will be interesting to record my progress and setbacks at 6 monthly intervals and I am so pleased to take part in hopefully shaping how other survivors will be treated in the future. Turning a negative into a positive.” (New mesarch participant, February 2021)

I was really happy to take part in the MESARCH project and felt the survey went well. I was pleased that I could turn what was a negative experience for me into one which could help others in the future.” (New mesarch participant, February 2021)

“I wanted to take part because I understand the importance of research and how this can help people in the long run. I also think it has been important for me to learn to be open!” (6 month interview, February 2021)

Recruitment into the longitudinal study continues; we still have a long way to go, and we would like to invite anyone who has attended a SARC to get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about the research.

Service provision mapping
We have mapped service provision by SARCs in England, based on a survey done by the project and anonymous data shared by NHS England and NHS Improvement. We are in the process of producing an infographic providing a snapshot of SARC care and service provision with a wide audience, mainly providers/professionals in any sector supporting those who have experienced sexual assault or abuse.

Literature reviews
The team is also completing two Cochrane Reviews into interventions for sexual assault and experiences and perspectives of survivors and practitioners. This work is progressing very well, and the findings will be published later this year.

Lived Experience Group
Our work with our Lived Experiences Group has been integral to our progress. Innovative approaches by those members have enabled us to reach out to ISVAs around the country, encouraging them to inform their clients about the opportunities this research presents. Our work with professionals is also continuing, as we strive to understand the views and experiences of different stakeholders across sexual assault and abuse services landscape about best practice, gaps, challenges and opportunities.

New project team members
Two doctoral students enrolled in January at Coventry University.

Sara Arouch M.D. is an international student from Morocco and her research will examine how SARCs can meet the needs of minority ethnic groups.

Kathleen Hill B.Sc. is an awardee of a Coventry University studentship and will investigate how previous or ongoing exposure to domestic violence and abuse might disrupt recovery following sexual assault.

We warmly welcome both Sara and Kat to the team.

The project will begin to wrap up in 2022 and so we ask for your support to reach out to your clients and colleagues to help with this ground-breaking study into sexual violence and abuse. The more data added to the project, the more likely it is that we will be in a position to provide regional feedback in the future to help services understand the impacts of their work. At a national level, the project is poised to generate a rich repository of high quality research evidence to support survivor-centred, enhanced decision-making in the future.

Join a thousand voices…

January – July 2020

The mesarch project is nearing its 2-year anniversary and we are glad to tell you about the tremendous progress we have made since our last update in December.  Sixteen Sexual Assault Referral Centres and 25 support services (see full list below) are now involved in the project, enabling survivors to have a voice and share about their recovery journeys, experiences of a range of sectors and services and highlight what is important to them. We are so fortunate to be working with over 100 Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) that are inviting their clients to take part in the research; we would like to thank them for their continued support to ensure their clients have this opportunity.

To date, we have screened 1463 service users at SARCs, which is 59% of our target number of people to reach. 231 have been invited by their ISVAs and other professionals involved in their care to hear more. Of these, 76% provided consent to be contacted and 87 people have now enrolled in our longitudinal study. A quarter of people have been followed up for their 6 month interview.

The project continued during the lockdown and participants are being asked how the pandemic is affecting healing and recovery.  We have written here about how the pandemic may be affecting survivors of sexual abuse and violence.

Our work to involve professionals at SARCs and other service providers as part of identifying best practice in SARCs is also ongoing, with a third of our interviews complete. We are using this opportunity to understand about how organisations and professionals have adapted to providing support to their clients during these difficult months.

Mesarch will ‘screen’ clients of SARCs up to Christmas and continue to invite people to join the project through their ISVAs until 30th April 2021.

If you would like to be involved or hear more, you can read testimonials here from our participants; or you can view the study video here.

Due to Covid-19, we have decided to postpone our conference. This will now take place on Wednesday 12th May 2021 in collaboration with the Mimos project.  Please join us for this event to hear about our preliminary findings and from our Lived Experience Group about their experiences of being involved in the studies as well as discussions on future research in this field.

September 2018 – December 2019

Our project launched just over a year ago.  We undertook national scoping work to understand the context of SARCs.  In June, we concluded our pilot work with the help of staff and service users at Juniper Lodge SARC in Leicester, for which we are very grateful.

In July, we received ethics approvals from the Health Research Authority and East Midlands-Derby Research Ethics Committee to launch our case study work (interviews with stakeholders) and undertake a national cohort (or longitudinal) study with adult survivors of sexual assault, rape and abuse. We completed our co-production of videos to facilitate recruitment of both professionals and people attending SARC services and the first screening for entry into the cohort study took place on August 1st 2019.

In order to reach service users and offer people the opportunity to be a part of the study, we need the involvement and support of SARCs and their staff. To date, the MESARCH project has brought together 14 SARCs across England to enable this ground breaking work to be a success.

But we still have one site to go! Do get in touch if you would like to propose your SARC service for participating. Email Dr Grace Carter at grace.carter@coventry.ac.uk.

Another piece of the puzzle to make this research possible has been working closely with third sector organisations. Our recruitment strategy required us to go well beyond the SARCs, and in fact we are now formally working with 23 partners in the charity sector, sexual health services and local councils to enable us to reach survivors and offer options for how to be involved in MESARCH. We recognise the difficulties for survivors of abuse, and indeed the challenges facing those in the voluntary sector, and research is often the last thing on people’s minds.  Yet teams of staff across the SARCs and other organisations have demonstrated their commitment to building knowledge and evidence about impacts of abuse and identifying best practice care and cross-working.

At each participating SARC staff screen all service users aged 18 years and above. To date, the eligibility of 500 people attending 12 SARCs has been considered. As service users are referred on to other services, staff at these sites have been trained to introduce the research using our video and consent is gathered to refer the person to the project team who then make contact in accordance with the person’s preferences, undertake the next level of consent checking and conduct a baseline interview. Our next steps are to develop our follow-up surveys for 6 month and 1 and 2 years.

We are thankful and humbled by the willingness of the individuals, staff and organisations making this research possible. The research has important national implications and can also make a global contribution around the connections between experience of sexual violence and abuse and long term health and wellbeing.

We remain dedicated to our mission to bring together ‘A thousand survivors’ voices for change’. We welcome your suggestions and comments; please also share any concerns related to research by emailing us at mesarch@coventry.ac.uk

For a copy of this newsletter click here

Participating SARC Sites 

The Blue Sky Centre
www.blueskycentre.org.uk / 0800 970 0370

Oakwood Place
www.oakwoodplace.org.uk / 01277 240620

Swindon and Wiltshire SARC
www.firstlight.org.uk / 01793 781916

Hope House
www.hopehousesarc.nhs.uk / 0300 4218400

Northumbria SARC
www.resachsarc.org.uk / 03333448283

Horizon
www.horizonsarc.org.uk / 0800 970 0375

The Saturn Centre
www.saturncentre.org.uk / 0800 0337797

The Bridge
www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk / 0117 342 6999

The Herts SARC
www.hertssarc.org /  0808 178 4448

The Elms
www.theelmssarc.org / 0800 1935434

The Glade
www.theglade.org.uk / 0800 9709377

SARC Teesside
www.sarcteesside.co.uk / 03333 44 8283

The Harbour Centre
www.theharbourcentre.co.uk / 01603 276381

Treetops
www.solent.nhs.uk/sarc / 0300 123 6616

Serenity
www.nhft.nhs.uk/serenity / 01604 601713

Juniper Lodge
www.juniperlodge.org.uk/ 0116 2733330


Third Sector and other organisations facilitating recruitment

Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC)
www.crasac.org.uk / 02476 277777

Safeline
www.safeline.org.uk / 01926 402498

Rape or Sexual Abuse Support (RoSA)
www.rosasupport.org / 01788 551151

Safelink
www.safelinkupport.org.uk / 0333 323 543

Black Country Women’s Aid
www.blackcountrywomensaid.co.uk / 121 552 6448

Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (GRASAC)
www.glosrasac.org / 01452 526770

Umbrella
www.umbrellahealth.co.uk / 0121 237 5700

Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP)
www.rsvporg.co.uk / 0121 643 4136

Synergy
www.synergyessexorg.uk / 0300 003 7777

Survivors Network
www.survivorsnetwork.org.uk / 01273 203380

West Sussex LA
www.saturncentre.org / 01293 600469

Splitz
www.splitz.org / 01225 777 724

Peterborough Rape Crisis
www.prccg.org.uk / 01733 852578

Cambridge Rape Crisis
www.cambridgerapecrisis.org.uk / 01223 245 888

Changing Lives
www.changing-lives.org.uk / 0191 273 8891

Victims First
www.victimsfirstnorthumbria.org.uk / 0800 011 3116

Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland
www.rctn.org.uk / 0800 035 2794

West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre
www.wmrsasc.org.uk / 01905 724514 (Worcestershire) or 01432 344777 (Herefordshire)

Axis
www.axiscounselling.org.uk / Counselling – Shrewsbury Office 01743 357777, Telford Office 01952 278000 / ISVA Service – Shrewsbury 01743 243007, Telford 01952 586790

Arch North East
www.archnortheast.org / 01642 822331

South Essex Rape and Incest Crisis Centre (SERICC)
www.sericc.org.uk / 01375 380609

Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse in Essex (CARA)
www.caraessex.org.uk / 01206 769795

SOS Rape Crisis
www.sosrc.org / 01702 667590

WORTH (WSCC)
0330 2228181

Yellow Door
https://www.yellowdoor.org.uk/ 02380 636313

Free from Violence and Abuse (FreeVA)
https://www.freeva.org.uk/ 0808 8020028

Publications

2020

Brown, S. J., Khasteganan, N., Carter, G. J., Brown, K., Caswell, R., Howarth, E., Feder, G.,& O’Doherty, L. (2020). Survivor, family and professional perspectives of psychosocial interventions for sexual abuse and violence: A qualitative evidence synthesis (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013648

Please click here to view the publication.

2019

Brown SJ, Khasteganan N, Brown K, Hegarty K, Garter GJ, Tarzia L, Feder G, O’Doherty L. Psychosocial interventions for survivors of rape and sexual assault experienced during adulthood. Cochrane database of Systematic Review 2019, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD013456. DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD013456

Please click here to view the publication.