The core service offered by START is a confidential, specialist counselling and support service for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse and/or sexual assault, resulting in sexual trauma. The services are offered to everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, cultural or religious background. The duration of counselling varies by individual, with an agreement covering the services we will deliver and the commitments to be made by the client, agreed at an initial assessment interview. The counselling service is free, within NICE guidelines, but for those living outside our core geographic areas, we offer a chargeable service.
In addition to counselling, we offer a Support Line, Peer Support Groups in locations across the county and therapeutic residential week-ends focused on enabling clients to better manage the impact of their trauma.
Our main office is in Winchester, with counselling hubs in Andover, at The Bridge, and in Basingstoke, at The Orchard and Fleet. We are committed to providing counselling locations as close to our clients as possible and are seeking further appropriate locations.
We are funded by the Ministry of Justice, through the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire (OPCC), the OPCC, Hampshire County Council and NHS
England, by donations and by charitable giving. We have an active Friends of START advisory panel which helps us to improve the START services and organises fundraising events.
If you have any other queries, or require further information regarding our services, or would like to join the Friends of START, please contact us on 01962 807 037.
START is a sexual trauma service, operating across North, Central and the District of East Hampshire, bringing together the previous RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service) supporting Central and North Hampshire and BRASACC (Basingstoke Rape and Sexual Abuse Crisis Centre), also operating in the North of the county. RASAC has been in operation since 1995 and BRASACC since 1985.
We offer specialist counselling services for adults and under-18s who have suffered from and survived sexual abuse and/or sexual assault. We offer a Support Line, which provides advice as to who to contact and what to do, which also offers information and signposting on to other services as may be appropriate. We also have a text and email service for those who wish to contact us but don’t like using the phone. We have Peer Support Groups running in various parts of Hampshire and offer therapeutic residential week-ends focused on enabling clients to better manage the impact of their trauma.
People who have been sexually abused, or been subjected to sexual violence, can experience many emotions and feelings which can be difficult to recognise and cope with on their own. Feelings can be anger, shame, guilt, confusion, sadness and many more. None of these are wrong, but they can affect your life and your relationships with the people around you and make you feel lonely and afraid. Counselling will help you understand your feelings and help you develop strategies to make positive changes in your life. Whatever you say is confidential and private to you and the counsellor.
START is a service operated by Communities First Wessex (known as Community First) which is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.
START is managed by an experienced Service Manager who reports to the Chief Executive of Community First. The Service Manager is in turn supported by: a Service Coordinator who co-ordinates the activities of our team of qualified, experienced counsellors, all with specific training in supporting those who have suffered sexual trauma as a result of sexual violence or abuse; a STEPS Coordinator who manages our Peer Support Groups; a Residential Week-ends Coordinator; and an Administrator. Our counsellors are either employed, self-employed or are volunteers. Support services, including Finance, IT and HR are provided by Community First.
The areas highlighted in blue below (Test Valley, City of Winchester, Basingstoke & Dean, East Hampshire, Hart and Rushmoor) please check our PDF list for more details of which postcodes we cover.
Our centre is on City Road, Winchester, almost opposite the Co-Op store. The centre currently has 3 counselling rooms which are all tranquil, relaxing and secure. We offer counselling between 9am and 9pm to suit the people we are seeing and have an administrator available each morning to take calls. You can call to make an enquiry and you will be offered an assessment usually within 2 weeks of completing an on-line referral.
Our building is up a total of 12 steps with a single railing on the left hand side of the first 10. Please make sure to press the ‘START’ door-bell on the left-hand side of the main door when you visit.
Should our building prove inaccessible to you, we can also provide counselling sessions around the corner at St Peter’s Church pastoral centre, off Jewry Street.
We also have outreach services based in Andover at The Bridge and in Basingstoke at The Orchard, as well as in Fleet.
In addition to face-to-face counselling, we also offer counselling via Skype, Zoom or other social media platforms or by telephone.
The nearest car parks are outside Winchester Train Station, on Gladstone Street; a small car park next to the Library on Jewry Street; a large, multi-story car park on Tower Street; and another large car park accessible via North Walls. We are approximately a 5 minute walk away from the car parks.
Winchester is also well served with Park and Ride services to the South and East of the City.
While we mainly provide counselling for all genders and ages, we also offer a range of other services including a student specific service, Residential Week-ends and a Support Line, which provides advice, information and acts as a signposting service to other linked services such as Victim Care, Frankie workers, ISVAs, Survivors UK, the Survivors Trust and our own STEPS programme of peer support.
Yes, we offer a service to anyone who has had some indirect experience of sexual abuse and sexual assault, although we may offer fewer counselling sessions, assessed, on an individual basis, at the assessment stage.
The main referral route is through completing an online referral form either as the initial contact, or following contact by telephone, e-mail or text. We also receive referrals on behalf of individuals from health professionals, the police and other agencies. Once we receive a referral, we arrange for you to come in and have what’s called an assessment. Once we receive the referral, we usually arrange a face-to-face assessment by the individual’s preferred method of contact, either via email, telephone or text. The assessments lasts for around 50 minutes, with one of our team of assessment counsellors, who will see you to discuss what has caused you to consider counselling, what you want from counselling and how we might help you. This could be face-to-face counselling, online or telephone counselling, a referral onto our STEPS Peer Support programme or signposting to other services, or a combination of these services.
We usually arrange an assessment within 2 weeks of your initial contact. You then go onto a Waiting List to see a specialist counsellor. The Waiting List is not a long one and we hope to offer you a counsellor within a month of your assessment. Timing often depends on when you want your counselling to take place, the more flexible you are on days and times, the quicker we can start the counselling.
Once we have received any contact we look to see how best we can plan to support the individual referred to us, whether this is a self-referral or one received through an agency.
We usually arrange a face-to-face assessment with the individual via email (or via phone or text if required) to ascertain the best way to provide support and agree a personalised support plan.
This could happen to be face-to-face counselling, group work, a referral onto our STEPS programme or signposting to other services, or a combination of these services.
Yes, all of our counsellors are BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) registered and some have also achieved higher counselling accreditation status (proof of qualifications available upon request). All counsellors have been given specialist sexual trauma training and have their own personal continuous professional development plans which they update each year as part of their agreement with START. Our counsellors are experienced in supporting victims and survivors, having a thorough knowledge and understanding of all related issues. Many of our counsellors are survivors themselves so understand how you might feel, especially as you first engage with counselling.
The Under-18s counsellors have had additional training in counselling children and young people.
Clients have either 8, 12 weeks or 24 weeks of therapy depending on the initial assessed need. If you or we feel more counselling could be of benefit then this will be discussed with you towards the end of your planned counselling sessions and might be extended if necessary.
Counselling is usually weekly, as once begun it is more productive if it continues at regular intervals. As you will be dealing with difficult and emotional issues, it is best not to leave too long between your counselling sessions.
We receive funding to provide free counselling sessions, for people living in the areas in which we operate, in line with NICE guidelines, which are variable depending upon presenting issues and the source of the initial referral. The exact number of free sessions available will be agreed at assessment. Often, our clients require additional counselling beyond the NICE guidelines and funding for these additional sessions is sought through client donations and through community events organised by the Friends of START. Consequently, we ask you, at the beginning of your counselling, to consider making a donation at each counselling session, which goes towards providing additional sessions for those who need them, but do not have the means to pay.
No contribution is required from the unwaged, students or children.
We provide a fee-paying counselling service, which is also available to those who reside outside the area in which we operate, but who wish to see a specialist counsellor trained specifically in sexual violence and abuse. The current fee for private counselling is £40 , per session.
Yes. There are our STEPS Peer-Support groups, and other services available to offer ongoing support. You could also join the Friends of START Advisory panels.
In the event that in the future you may want further counselling, you can again refer yourself to START.
Yes, we ask all ex-clients when they finish their counselling if they would like to become involved with START through our “Friends of START” advisory panels. These meet every quarter to discuss and review a range of issues including policies, procedures, service improvements and fundraising events. We have both male and female advisory panels and are looking to develop an under-18s panel to work with our Under-18s team.
As part of our STEPS programme we plan to have a separate STEPS advisory panel with representatives from each of the STEPS groups.
Yes, though we have the same process, policies and procedures for all genders and ages.
Clients have a choice of female or male counsellor, which can be discussed at assessment.
The Peer Support groups are gender specific, with female, male or LGBT+ focused groups available as demand dictates.
Yes, of course. You can write, e-mail or call and speak to the Service Manager if you have any issues. If you are not happy with the way things are going it is important to let us know so we can resolve anything that may be troubling you.
We actively encourage all clients to tell us how we are doing, whether it’s good or bad as it helps us to refine our services. At the end of your counselling sessions, we provide a feedback form for you to complete, as we do with those who attend our STEPS Peer Support groups and Residential Week-ends.
For any immediate issues, you can either write in, call, or e-mail us. Details are available on our Contact page.
We raise any specific feedback at our Friends of START advisory panel meetings in order to constantly improve our services.
Call our Advice & Support Line on 01962 868 688 or 01962 864 433
Anonymous SMS Text helpline service: 07860 027 793
Available 24 hours
"I am now in control of my thoughts and my life. I have gained self-confidence in so many ways and I am no longer haunted by the past."
"I have been given the tools to cope with everyday life. Without counselling I would have continued to deny my situation and feelings which was having extreme detrimental effect on myself, family and friends… RASAC has saved me from self destruction without the support I would have crumbled – a true life saver."
"My RASAC counselling has completely changed my life… I am a better mother, a more involved member of the community and I am able to keep myself safe."
"I was counselled for almost a year. I had a wonderful counsellor who helped me through a very difficult and unpleasant time in my life. It has been a process of healing by revisiting past places which at one time felt unimaginable. The journey has been raw and unnerving but slowly I came to see how I was repairing my damaged self. I finally accepted ownership of what had happened to me and was able to let go of my guilt and shame. My counsellor understood my outlook on life and created a connection with me that was very special. I eventually looked forward to my session as a weekly debrief rather than a purge. I am as happy and confident as I have ever been and I tell people about what I have learnt to help turn their negativity into positivity. Fear can be a very powerful emotion and prevent us from moving on in our lives but once it is confronted the clouds separate and you can focus on that hint of sunshine."
"Thank-you for the support, for the first time since talking about the sexual abuse to someone it is really helping me."
"Thank you so much for all your time and support while I was working through all of the stuff that happened - I really couldn't have done it without your help and input." Male client - June 2021
"The support, understanding and guidance that I've received from START has been life-changing. The whole process has been crucial for me to understand some of the trauma I'd experienced during my childhood. Who I've become as a consequence, who I am today, and how I process some of my thoughts, feelings and emotions." - April 2023
"I cannot thank Sarah at START enough for the counselling I received. I was a bit sceptical of the EMDR therapy I was offered at first but it really has helped me a great deal and I'm grateful for having the opportunity to go through it." - April 2023
"I'd like to thank everyone involved at START. You're doing a phenomenal job. I can't stress how important this journey has been for me. It's been a life altering experience." - April 2023
"Thank you for the Lotus week end, my life is taking a turn for the better and my new journey begins now." - July 2023