PEOPLE in Helensburgh and Lomond who have been raped or suffered sexual assault or historic sexual abuse have been urged to come forward and get help after a support charity announced plans to bring its services back to the town.

Argyll and Bute Rape Crisis (ABRC) has secured Scottish Government funding to employ a support worker in the area for the first time in eight years.

And the charity’s manager says their experience in other areas leads them to believe plenty of people will come forward – particularly because of the effects of lockdown on survivors’ coping mechanisms.

Elizabeth Thompson told the Advertiser: “At the moment we support between 25 and 30 people in the Helensburgh area each year, but that has not been face-to-face support because we didn’t have a worker in the area.

“We’ve been trying to get funding for a worker in Helensburgh for a long time – the last time we had a presence in the area was about eight years ago – so when the Scottish Government announced extra funding for rape crisis centres we immediately made a bid for a Helensburgh worker.

“All the research says that face-to-face support is far more effective, and we hope that having someone on the ground in Helensburgh will support people to come forward.”

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The current lockdown restrictions mean that ABRC is unable to provide face-to-face, in-person support except in what Elizabeth calls “critical situations”, but the charity is hopeful that those in-person sessions will be able to resume if and when restrictions are eased into the spring and summer.

According to government figures published last year, incidents of domestic violence soared in Scotland during lockdown after people were instructed to stay at home – but Elizabeth says that the lockdown also had other consequences for people who had been raped or sexually abused in the past.

“People who have coped, sometimes for years and years, with the support of their family, friends, colleagues, sporting activities and so on suddenly found that those coping mechanisms had been completely removed,” she continued.

“In many cases, when people were left on their own, all the memories of things that had happened to them in the past kicked in all over again. They thought they’d dealt with what had happened to them and suddenly, in isolation, it all came flooding back.”

One in 10 women in Scotland has experienced rape, according to government statistics, and one in five women in Scotland has had someone try to make them have sex against their will.

Two per cent of men in Scotland have also experienced rape, and ABRC’s support services are available to men as well as women.

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Elizabeth added: “Our key message is that if you have been raped or have experienced sexual abuse, you are not alone. Come and speak to us. There is support out there, and we can help you get through it.”

Support for people in Helensburgh who need the help of ABRC will initially be available by phone, Zoom or Skype, as well as by email, text message or letter.

Face-to-face support will be provided as soon as restrictions are eased sufficiently.

To contact the service, call 0800 121 4685 or email

You can also contact the charity’s new Helensburgh worker, Dee, on 07384 463473.

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