Southend Rape Crisis abuse reports 'linked to school talks'

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A rape crisis centre in Essex believes there is a "strong link" between its talks in schools and schoolgirls and young women reporting abuse.

SOS Rape Crisis in Southend has visited 12 secondary schools to raise awareness of sexual violence and unhealthy relationships.

It said 85 girls and women, aged 11 to 25, had come forward in a year.

Some reported the SOS Rape Crisis talk, or someone discussing it, had made them seek help.

Maaike Mantel, from the centre, said it began its girls' and young women's service, which included talks in schools, last November.

The sessions in classrooms and assemblies reached 1,400 boys and girls in six months.

'Flashbacks and nightmares'

The "age-appropriate" talks deal with what sexual violence and consent are, what the law states, how to recognise an unhealthy relationship and how SOS Rape Crisis can help.

The information it sends to schools states young people often do not know what consent is, or where the boundaries are.

The charity said it did not know how many of the 85 had contacted them as a result of the talks, but it had seen girls react to the content and then subsequently call them for help.

"Girls have said 'That's familiar - I've experienced that, I've got flashbacks and nightmares; I'm struggling, can you help me," said Ms Mantel.

"Sometimes the abuse happened weeks ago, sometimes it's years"

SOS Rape Crisis provides one-to-one support and group work, focussing on tackling problems the victim struggles with, while working with police and other organisations such as sexual health agencies.

"Thousands of girls have experienced sexual violence and 85 is only the tip of the iceberg," said Ms Mantel.

"We all strongly believe that the total number is a lot greater. Who knows where we will be in five years."

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