FOR almost 30 years Catherine Cash-Harvey has worked with some of the most vulnerable members of society.
This has been through numerous roles, including helping survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and as a support worker for a national mental health charity.
Catherine has now brought this experience to a new group offering support for people subjected to abuse.
Known as STAR (Supporting Trauma Abuse and rape) it has been up and running for just a few months but is already attracting an increasing number of women who attend their twice monthly meetings at Millennium House, Bickerstaffe Street, St Helens town centre.
She said: “A lot of people who have suffered domestic abuse have also been through sexual abuse. In helping both we are combining the two along with other forms of trauma. But we don’t provide therapy. It’s more about building friendships.
“At the minute it’s for women however if I started getting referrals from men I would look to set up separate sessions.
“STAR provides support from people who have suffered similar experiences. The sessions will be a combination of talking along with activities including crafts and exercise advice.”
Earlier this year the Star reported how there had been 700 incidents of domestic violence reported in November and December 2013 alone.
While she could not say that the levels of abuse were particularly high in St Helens, Catherine did stress that more support could come from health care professionals.
“They should be asking more questions. For example asking pregnant women confidentially to check everything is ok. People shouldn’t be afraid of asking questions.
“And with sexual abuse some people are just waiting to be asked. Maybe there should be more awareness.
“These days a lot of young girls don’t recognise that a relationship they are in is abusive. The expectations that it’s always physical, but it’s also control when they are dressed in a certain way and stopped from going out.”
One of the organisers of the group is Kasia Simms, a teacher at De La Salle. She said: “Working with children inspired me to want to do something that has a positive impact on the community.
“We want to try and give back some of the confidence that has been taken away even if it is a trip to watch a girly film at the cinema."
You can contact STAR on 07968663537, email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@thestarcentre1.