DIS.CO News January-June 2018

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DIS.CO is a two year Erasmus+ project that aims at the development, piloting and dissemination of VET material regarding the enhancement of key competences of psycho-social Counselling practitioners in the field of Counselling women victims of violence through alternative digital means.  The aim is to provide alternative innovative services and to build virtual workplaces. The project will promote innovative digital learning methods (e-learning) accompanied with work-related digital tools (online Safety Planning Application) as well as conventional practical guides.
Launch of Erasmus+ Project DIS.CO – Development of “at a Distance” Counselling Skills

DIS.CO project partners met in Heraklion, Greece from 25-26 January 2018, for the launch of a new Erasmus+ funded project, DIS.CO “Development of ‘at a Distance’ Counselling Skills for Professionals in the Field of Counseling Women Victims of Violence or Abuse”. This two-year project gathers 8 partners (including universities and NGOs) from 6 European countries (Austria, Greece, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Estonia and Spain) to develop, pilot and disseminate material regarding the enhancement of psycho-social counselling in the field of counselling women victims of violence through alternative digital means.

Counselling has mostly taken place face-to-face; however, different ways of engaging in therapy have emerged in recent years (such as email, Skype and other video conferencing). These new ways allow for the therapist and client to be able to connect with each other without being physically present in the same space or at the same moment. CaaD (Counseling at a Distance) provides access to counselling for persons who may otherwise not be able to receive help (such as those with special needs, people without means of transportation or low-income, those where distance prohibits regular contact, those traveling or on-the-move, those needing cross-border support, those living in rural areas, young people, and those who require daily follow-up contact).

The next project partner meeting will take place in Tartu, Estonia from 26-27 July, 2018.

DIS.CO Facebook Page has launched!

On May 9th, Europe Day, the DIS.CO facebook page went live, posting several informational graphics on gender-based violence and the importance of long-distance Counselling in the fight against this. The official DIS.CO hashtags are: #DISCOagainstVAW #endVAWlongdistance

Don’t forget to follow the hashtags on social media as well as the DIS.CO facebook page to stay up to date on the latest developments of the project.


IO1 – Needs Assessment

The first intellectual output (IO) of the the DIS.CO project was a Needs Assessment, an acticivity led by the Queen’s University Belfast with contribution from the other academic DIS.CO partners. Research and analysis to identify the needs on the topic of counselling “at a distance” was conducted. The following aspects were considered:

– Are women in abusive relationships/situations reaching Victim Support Organisations through online means (including Helplines)? What is the trend and what can we do to facilitate victims’ online access?

– Is there a difference in using alternative types of counselling between rural and urban areas, is there a difference by socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, age or ethnicity? Is there a difference in using alternative types of counselling and help between different sections of the population in different geographical locations?

– Are women in abusive situations searching the web for online advice, & if they do, how do they search (what keywords do they use)? If they are not searching, why not ?

IO2 – Profile of Counsellor “at a distance”

Frederick University is responsible for running IO2, which aims to run a study to “identify the necessary competences for counselling at a distance & to establish the profile of such Counsellors working with women victims of domestic & sexual violence & abuse”. For this purpose, a) Desk research and b) Interviews with counselors were adopted. In total, 29 interviews were conducted and very informative data was collected. The deliverable of this intellectual output is expected to be completed by the end of June 2018.

M&M Profuture Training interviews SARA Servei d’atenció, recuperació i acollida for IO2

To create a profile of a counsellor “at a distance” (IO2) DIS.CO partner, M&M Profuture Training interviewed, among others, SARA Servei d’atenció, recuperació i acollida. SARA is a public service that provides specific care for women, children and teenagers who suffer gender-based violence, and for people of their close environment who are directly affected by this violence.

SARA also advises the professionals and people who belong to clients’ environment.

It is a new ambulatory service in the city and municipal area of Barcelona that was launched on January 2, 2014.

It offers comprehensive assistance in order to be able to work on the recovery processes of the people attended, whether or not they need hosting resources.

It is the gateway to public and private resources for urgent and long-term accommodation for women living in situations of gender-based violence and their children.

Some quotes from the interviews

“[…] With teenagers, for example. If we could have some App, like a chat, WhatsApp, whatever, maybe it would make our work easier[…] through a chat or something like that we could create a first bond, and then we can meet her. I think that it can be really useful as the beginning of the path”.  

“[Counselling at a distance] would be good to create or keep the bond”.

“I think that the biggest advantage is that through “at a distance” work we can reach women we don’t usually reach.  I think that we can break several barriers, especially with young girls, who are really used to communicate through chats and tools like that. This would be potentially great.  It can be helpful to break the isolation. This is the most important thing. Women need to break their isolation”.

“The big advantage is the contact with young people via chat, WhatsApp etcetera, also in order to prevent violence. If I’m sixteen and I have a gender-based violence problem, I won’t come here, I will send a WhatsApp.  So I can see advantages related to specific social groups and specific moments. At the beginning, it can be very embarrassing to get here to the centre. So the first contact online can be really welcomed”.

Introducing DIS.CO partner Nexus NI

Nexus NI was founded in 1984 as a result of a series of rapes in South Belfast.  Some local activists set up a helpline to deal with the issues that were emerging from the rapes and so from humble beginnings our organisation was born.  In the early days Nexus relied on volunteers but over the years, as the organisation began to grow and develop, staff were recruited.  Nexus is now almost 35 years old.  With almost 80 staff, mainly counselling staff, in addition to management, admin and a thriving education and prevention team.

Nexus NI’s core function is to provide specialist counselling to adult survivors of sexual violence and abuse.  Nexus works with both men and women aged 16+ and right across Northern Ireland.  The offices are located in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and Enniskillen and operate from over 30 sites in a variety of rural and urban centres across Northern Ireland.

Nexus delivers at least 16,000 counselling sessions per year to over 1000 men and women.  Unfortunately due to the demand for Nexus’ work, there is currently a waiting list of over 600 people!

In addition to counselling, Nexus also delivers a range of projects including:

•    A BBC Children in Need project which offers counselling to young people aged 11 – 16.  From July 1, this project will be extended to include children aged 8 and above.  There is also family support sessions offered as part of this project.
•    Family counselling. To qualify for family counselling, there must be one family member under the age of 16 and one of the family members must be a survivor of sexual violence and abuse
•    Nexus will be shortly starting a project in partnership with the Police service of Northern Ireland. The Aim of the project is to offer up to 12  support sessions to victims of sexual violence  before their best evidence interview.  Family support is also available.
•    As part of a multi-agency project , looking to improve services for people with learning disabilities who have suffered sexual violence/abuse, Nexus will be offering counselling to this group from September. However, there will be limited numbers of participants.
•    Nexus offers Child Sexual Exploitation training  (Level 1 and Level 2) to professionals working directly with children and young people.
•    Nexus delivers RSE (relationship and sexuality training) for young people aged 11-25.  Three sessions are available and are age appropriate covering things like puberty, contraception, STD’s.
•    Nexus offers customised training on topics like Disclosure, Internet safety, and bystander training.

“Nexus NI is delighted to be part of the DIS.CO project, where, with our European partners, we will be looking at providing Counselling at a distance.  As Nexus is the only agency in Northern Ireland providing specialist counselling to survivors of sexual violence/abuse, we hope that with the incorporation of technology into our daily operations, we will be able to reach many more people, particularly rural men and women who are often isolated and excluded. We hope too that this new project will help us address our massive waiting lists.

DIS.CO is a very exciting project and we are acutely aware that technology is the way forward.  We look forward to making a difference to the lives of so many more survivors of sexual violence and abuse in the future.”