Stay SAFE!At SAFE! we teach young people to listen to their 'Early Warning Signs'. These are the feelings that we have in our body when we don't feel safe. We also encourage young people to work out who they can talk to if they are not feeling safe, and to seek help when they need it
SAFE! has a new website that looks at some of the problems faced by young people online called Safe Stories.
Looking at the issues through four characters, these two short video stories are accompanied by advice and guidance on issues such as cyber-abuse, sexting, revenge porn, consent and healthy relationships. This is advice designed to keep you safe and to promote positive and respectful relationships.
The characters in the video are fictional, but their stories are based on the real experiences of young people supported by SAFE! Here are the stories of what might have happened next.
Maddie really struggled after she was raped. She blamed herself for what happened and only realised how serious it was after speaking with the police. She was anxious, withdrawn and not going to school. She was so worried about bumping into Mitchell that she was barely leaving home.
SAFE! Project Worker Emma spent time getting to know Maddie and helping her to think about what she needed to get back on her feet. Together they planned a programme of support to include looking at what had changed, linking her feelings, thoughts and behaviour, as well as exercises to build her confidence. They looked at early warning signs – identifying the physical sensations in our body when we are feeling scared, and introduced her to common responses to sexual assault (fight/flight/flop/freeze) which Maddie was very struck by as she had been blaming herself for freezing and not doing more to stop the assault. They did sessions that challenged Maddie’s perception of how relationships develop safely and explored risk both on and off line. Finally, Emma asked Maddie to ‘risk for a purpose’ and slowly encouraged her to start leaving home, and return to school.
A few months later Maddie attended the SAFE! residential where she met other young people who had been through similar experiences. She said ‘it is so great to know that you’re not the only one who feels like this, I think I’ve made some friends for life’. Now Maddie is studying hard for her GCSEs, she still has good and bad days and knows that she will never forget her experience, but she is feeling positive about the future and is determined not to let it hold her back.
When SAFE! first met Katie her family were very worried about her. After cyber abuse and bullying had stopped her from going to school, she was retreating into herself. Katie was tearful, angry and was struggling to get on with her family. She was self-harming regularly and feeling very low. SAFE! Project Worker Amy visited Katie and her family at home, and gave her the time and space to think through what she needed in order to repair the harm from the bullying. Amy worked closely with Katie’s parents and the school to make sure that the bullying was dealt with and help given to allow Katie to start returning to school. Amy spoke with the Mental Health service about the ongoing self-harm and supported the family to access support.
After a couple of weeks the sessions were moved to school to help Katie when she returned to class. The sessions were creative and practical. Amy helped Katie think about her identity as a young woman and challenged how she sees herself – they also discussed how society places pressure on body confidence. Katie spent one session decorating a journal in which to write down her worries and thoughts, as well as one good thing about herself or one thing she was grateful for each day.
During one session Katie wrote a letter to the people who hurt her, telling them how they had hurt her and setting out her wishes for herself and for them. The school is now arranging a restorative meeting between Katie and some students involved in bullying.
Amy also took Katie along to a local theatre group where she met other young people her age. Katie’s mum says SAFE! has made a world of difference to her daughter “I can’t thank you enough for the help you’ve given us. We realise she still has a long way to go but it is wonderful to see Katie smiling again”.