Christine Birchall was a married mother of 4 living in Kendal, Cumbria in the late 1980’s. Christine watched a BBC documentary highlighting the lack of support for victims of rape and sexual abuse. The conviction rates were extremely low in comparison to other crimes; unsurprisingly reporting of this crime was very low. The emotional support available to victims was sparse in the UK, in Cumbria it was non-existent.
Suitably outraged at this situation, Christine set about gaining qualifications in counselling. In 1991 she wound down her business as a children’s clothes designer in order to channel her energies into establishing a support agency for survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
With £300 and a telephone contributed by British Telecom the service was born in 1991 in what Christine described as a ‘hovel of an attic room’ in Kendal; but it was a start and better than nothing. Christine was supported by one or two volunteer counsellors.
Sadly Christine died in 2006. She was a great loss to both the service and the individuals who worked with her. Christine would certainly be described as a feisty lady; it was this energy and drive that established a service in South Cumbria. Many individuals, who have suffered for several years from the adverse effects of childhood sexual abuse, have been helped to overcome these and turn their lives around.
Discussions to change the name from South Cumbria Rape and Abuse Service (SCRAS) to something more palatable to the public and service users began several years ago with Christine. After her death it seemed most fitting that we honour her work by changing the name to The Birchall Trust. The name has been well received and described by clients as “more dignified”.
The counselling rooms can no longer be described as ‘hovels’! We now have an office base in Barrow with 6 counselling rooms; Kendal has 2 counselling rooms; Lancaster has 4 counselling rooms and Morecambe has 2 counselling rooms. All can be described as tastefully decorated and extremely comfortable.
The service continues to flourish thanks to the dedication of the team of counsellors, trustees and staff and we remain ever grateful to the funders who have supported this service. With many people accessing the service over the years, the work Christine began in 1991 continues to benefit survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse in the community we serve.
The clients accessing the service can be male, female and LGBT, adults, children or young people who are survivors of Rape, Sexual Assualt and Sexual abuse. Friends and family of survivors are also welcome to attend counselling in order to help them to support their loved ones.
We also offer Pre-Trial Therapy to any clients who are going through a criminal investigation.
The Birchall Trust agree to support all survivors of sexual violence unless they are under investigation or have been convicted of any sexual offence.
All our counselling takes place in our comfortable counselling rooms in Barrow, Kendal, Lancaster or Morecambe.