In 1994 a small group of local women came together through their concern at the lack of specialist, women-centered, women-only services for survivors of rape, incest and childhood sexual abuse in Cornwall.
By 1996 we had established the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Cornwall) as a registered charity and had begun to provide a Helpline one evening a week and an outreach service, both run by well-trained volunteers.
In 1998 we received our first funding, established an office base and employed a full time co-ordinator who continued to develop The Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (WRSAC), expanding our helpline hours, outreach and making contact with other agencies. We affiliated to Cornwall Disability Forum, Cornwall Council for Racial Equality, Citizens Advocacy, Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum, The Rape Crisis Federation, Action Against Child Abuse, Accuracy about Abuse and Women Against Rape and established working relationships with the Police and Probation Service.
In 1999 WRSAC was approached by Devon and Cornwall Probation Service to deliver Women’s Support Services alongside the Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme. This was WRSAC’s first step into Domestic Violence support service delivery. This meant that when the Government launched the ‘Living Without Fear’ initiatives in 1999, WRSAC was able to lead on a multi-agency project placing Domestic Violence Support Workers in Police Domestic Violence Units. This project developed into the ‘Cornwall Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Service’ eventually employing 10 workers.
WRSAC was also influential in setting up the first Cornwall Domestic Violence Forum and supporting the need for a County Domestic Violence Co-ordinator.
In 2000 WRSAC hosted the First Domestic Violence Conference in Cornwall, ‘A Time for Action’, attended by 190 delegates. In partnership with the local authority, we helped to develop the first refuge provision in our area of Cornwall.
In 2002 WRSAC received a Development Grant from the Big Lottery which enabled us to expand our services further and to seek new premises. We also received funding from Comic Relief to develop and deliver the Domestic Violence Women’s Support Network as well as a Service Level Agreement with North Cornwall District Council to run a Women, Drugs and Violence Project.
In 2003 WRSAC initiated the first Sexual Violence Forum in Cornwall. We won the contract to deliver Womens Support Work for the newly developed, community-based perpetrator programme Men and Relationships Project (MARS). We developed two Domestic Violence support groups, Waves in Newquay and Friends in Bude.
In 2004 we moved into much larger premises in Bodmin, a central base for covering the county. Responding to need, we developed and delivered the Young Women’s Support Network funded by South West Foundation. The young women’s group ran the first Reclaim the Night March in the county attended by over 100 young women.
In 2004 we received funding from the Home Office for one of the first 34 Independent Sexual Violence Advisers in the country.
WRSAC also initiated Cornwall Women’s Mental Health Forum. With the RSPCC we also set up Pet Retreat a fostering service for animals of women escaping violence.
In 2005 WRSAC received the Government’s Gold Star Award for Good Practice and was funded to roll out this good practice, particularly in the area of recruiting, training and supporting volunteers. We also received the Criminal Justice Board’s Award for ‘Outstanding Services to Victims and Witnesses’. We were invited to the House of Commons and presented to MPs and Ministers as one of the Legal Service Commission’s ‘Flagship Projects’.
1n 2006 we launched the Cornwall Countywide Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Project and set up a Survivors' Forum which eventually became the SEEDS Project. Our Chief Executive received a Cornwall Women of Achievement Award.
In 2007 WRSAC was funded to develop a national training pack for ‘Delivering Services to Victims of Sexual Violence through Volunteering’. Staff and volunteers received their first Trauma Training delivered by Norma Howes. We became members of National Rape Crisis Board of Trustees and our Chief Executive presented on our work at a Sexual Violence Conference at Warwick University.
In 2008 WRSAC delivered a sexual violence conference called ‘Breaking the Silence; Healing the Wounds’ at the Eden Project which addressed the Government’s ‘Sexual Violence and Abuse Action Plan’ and was the catalyst for the formation of the ‘Cornwall Sexual Violence Forum’. WRSAC’s staff, volunteers and service users were involved in the production of two short films which were shown at the conference.
In 2008 WRSAC returned to the Eden Project to launch a book produced by our Young Women’s Support Network entitled ‘They Underestimated Us’. The book was a culmination of 12 months work undertaken by the young women who attended a series of 20 workshops run by artists including writers, performers, photographers, film makers and visual artists.
In 2009 WRSAC received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and in 2010 was visited by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall who commendedus on the ‘amazing, difficult and harrowing work’ we do.
We piloted a 14-week Pattern Changing Programme, a psycho-social educational programme for women experiencing domestic abuse.
In 2010 after a rigorous 12 month Quality Assurance process WRSAC became a CAADA (Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse) ‘Leading Light’ and was recognized as a Centre of Excellence for our work with Domestic Violence. We were one of only seven in the United Kingdom.
In 2012, out of 450 national charities, WRSAC was named Overall Winners of the Kings Fund IMPACT Award for our Innovation Management Partnership Achievement, Community Focus and Targeting need and described as "an exemplary organisation providing life-changing services in imaginative ways".
In 2012, in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Probation Service, WRSAC starting supporting women with offending behaviours through the OPEN project. This project now covers Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and is supported by the OPEN Volunteer Peer Mentoring Service.
In 2014, with a large 5-year grant from Big Lottery, WRSAC developed a Hub and Spoke model of service delivery to increase our provision in more isolated rural communities. The grant also allowed us to develop a programme of holistic body work, alternative therapies and therapeutic activities including eco therapy, walking groups and Healing through Art.
Our Chief Executive becomes a Board Member of the End Violence Against Women and Girls Coalition.
In 2015 we established an office base in Bude to serve the far north of the county basing volunteers and a volunteer co-ordinator there.
WRSAC also wrote and delivered the POWER Programme: a 14-week structured psycho educational programme for survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence.
In 2016 WRSAC formed the SPIRAL Consortium with two other Cornwall based charities CLEAR and CRASAC. We also commenced an Organizational Review and Consultation (funded through the Local Sustainability Fund) as well a rebranding process.
In 2017 we completed the organizational review and continued with our rebranding process. We also moved premises! Due to shortage of counselling space in the new centre, and thinking forward towards new developments, WRSAC fundraised for a new building to be built alongside our new centre. We were fortunate to receive a large grant from the Clothmakers Foundation and numerous donations from people in our community through a Crowdfunding Appeal.
We also formed a consortium with other South West Rape Crisis Centres (Bristol, Somerset, Avon, Devon and Gloucester).
Our Chief Executive, Maggie Parks receives an OBE for her service to victims and survivors.
WRSAC were the only Rape Crisis Centre nationally and the only third sector provider in the South West to receive a grant from the Tampon Tax Fund. The grant will enable us to deliver a Community Engagement Project that will engage with women and girls from hidden communities who have difficulties in accessing our services.
In 2018 we changed our name to THE WOMENS CENTRE CORNWALL
All our of services still remain at the heart of what we do.
We continue to respond to the changing needs of women & girls in our communities and adapt ourselves to meet their needs, amplify their voices and empower them to reclaim their lives.
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