A pair of friends who were sexually abused as children have appealed for help developing a start-up fund to launch their fledgling support group.
Gina Despard and Shelley Knowles, sufferers of two unrelated cases of child sex abuse (CSA), are the brains behind Release into Victory.
Gina, 48, from Preston, and Shelley, 49, from Southport, have registered the support group as a Community Interest Company (CIC).
This means they are now able to raise funds to assist its work and all the money they generate will go directly into the running of the company.
Gina said: “We are desperate for a start-up fund.
“It’s needed for things like a telephone helpline, costs to cover a venue for a launch and publicity leaflets.
“All of these things are vital to get people to be aware of us and to encourage them to come forward.
“We are looking for sponsorship, people willing to give their time as volunteers and we are looking for professional counsellors to come on board.
“We are putting a business plan together and hoping to have a launch event at the Guild Hall, which has offered its venue for two days, but we need money to do this.”
While the group is in its early stages, the pair want to act as a link between survivors and professional services.
Gina said: “We want to encourage people to come and talk to us about what they want and what are the barriers that have prevented them from coming forward and talking about their problems.
“Is it because the services aren’t in place?
“Our aim is to get to the root of why people don’t talk about CSA, then feed that back into the services.”
She said they have struck a deal with Lune Street Methodist Church in Preston to be the first outreach base.
She said: “We are going to going to as many churches as we can because they are offering their rooms for free and run outreach drop in centres.
“Eventually we hope to have a permanent place in town, perhaps a little shop front, but not down some back street.
“We’ve got to be talking about this as a society.
“We’ve got to be getting this issue out in the open where people can see us and acknowledging that it is a big problem.”
Long-term, the pair, who have experience working with children’s charities and in domestic violence support, aim to achieve charity status and offer advice based on some of the work of Lamplighters, an international movement for CSA recovery.
You can contact Gina and Shelley via email at email@example.com.