Fresh bid to help Portsmouth rape counselling charity raise £20,000

Parcs centre director Kim Hosier, business director Penny Valentine and clinical manager Becs Feek. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Parcs centre director Kim Hosier, business director Penny Valentine and clinical manager Becs Feek. Picture: Malcolm Wells

They have poured in thousands of hours helping survivors of sexual abuse in the last year alone.

Now a dedicated team of counsellors have secured a new fit-for-purpose home after moving out of their crumbling former offices.

But charity Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service now needs to secure £20,000 by December next year.

Relying on the public for help. its centre director Kim Hosier said: ‘This has been a big step and a big investment.

‘We wanted the best for our clients.

‘The alternative was to pay twice as much in rent but at least now the charity has a dedicated asset.

‘We've been here for 37 years and we want to be here for another 37 years.

‘We hope more people will come forward with their experiences.’

After years at its former offices in North End, Parcs secured its Goldsmith Avenue home in May – moving in a single day.

Faced with a dilapidated converted house charity workers had no choice but to move.

But they were then met with the prospect of switching from a peppercorn Portsmouth City Council rent to full market value costs.

Instead of forking out that while not securing a permanent asset, Parcs bosses decided to take out a loan from the Charity Bank – and buy their new building.

Named Diana House – dedicated to the charity’s founder Diana Warren-Holland who died in 2014 – Parcs’ facility has consulting rooms for counselling sessions.

The charity has been using an inflatable elephant to raise awareness of sexual abuse, a play on the phrase the elephant in the room.

Now it is launching its fundraising campaign: Help the elephant to keep a roof over its head.

People are being invited to buy a tile to help raise cash for the upkeep of the charity.

And with the move, the charity is opening up more – whereas before its location was a closely-guarded secret.

Centre director Kim said opening up more – while not publicly disclosing the full address – would help people not feel ashamed about coming to the centre.

She said: ‘They’re not the people who should be ashamed, it’s the perpetrators who should be ashamed. The more we can get that out there the more we can get people to come forward.’

Kim added: ‘Where we had the building before it looked very down at heel but we’re probably more down at heel now.

‘The previous setting, it was falling down, it was propped up at the back – and I didn’t think it was good enough for the people that we support.

‘I feel we’re more centrally located – we’re not far from Portsmouth Football Club in the heart of the city and although we’re going to be fairly low key we’re not going to be so secretive about the address.

‘When we started in the 1980s there wasn’t the conversation about abuse.

‘Being so secretive can add to the sense of shame with abuse.

‘It’s happening in our cities all around us and we’re offering support for all ages.’

The charity specialises in working with people needing counselling, with telephone support lines, and both group and face-to-face support.

In 2017-18, Parcs workers carried out more than 7,800 hours of face-to-face counselling and phone support to children and adults.

This included:

n 5,615 hours of face to face counselling with adults.

n 1,431 hours of face-to-face counselling with young people aged 11-18.

n 288 hours of face to face counselling with children aged 5-10.

n 499 hours of emotional telephone support.

n 96 peer-led group sessions.

In the year to March 2016 the charity worked with 349 adult survivors of rape and sexual abuse, including child sexual exploitation.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, praised the work of Parcs and said it was vital the charity was supported.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s incredibly important because we know we’ve been lucky in the city that we’ve not had a murder involving domestic abuse for a long time but we know that sexual violence and domestic abuse are far too common in Portsmouth.

‘We also know that it’s crimes that are under-reported. Lots of people suffer from these but never say a word.

‘To have really good services, particularly for vulnerable women or women full stop, is very important.

‘If we can find ways of people feeling safe then everything in their lives gets better.

‘And if we can find ways of finding perpetrators and making sure that they feel the full force of the law and therefore they don’t do it again, it’s also extremely important.

‘The works that Parcs has done for many, many years in the city to support people who have been abused and suffered sexual violence is really important I’m really pleased there’s a new long-term home for them.’

Most recently the charity was at Victorious Festival over the bank holiday weekend as part of its welfare contingent.

There were three reported sex offences at the three-day music event.

Diana House will be formally opened next month in a ceremony expected to be attended by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lee Mason.

For help call the helplines on:

n Womens helpline  – (023) 9266 9511.

n Mens helpline • 023 9266 9516

The lines are open Monday 1pm-3pm, and Wednesday and Friday 7pm-10pm.

For more and to donate, see mydonate.bt.com/charities/portsmouthabuseandrapecounsellingserviceparcs