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Unit 83, 17 Third Avenue, Heatherhouse Industrial Estate, Irvine, KA12 8HN

Let’s Talk – Break The Silence

Community Justice Ayrshire are championing the efforts of the third sector across Ayrshire.

We want to highlight the positive difference the sector is making in people’s lives and in our communities.  We also want people to understand the importance of their role in community justice and reducing re-offending.

We hope this information will raise awareness of the significance of third sector services and highlight some of the important work undertaken in our communities.

Today we shine the spotlight on Break the Silence.

Break the Silence provide professional support to survivors of rape and sexual abuse, of all genders aged 13 years and over, living in East and North Ayrshire.  Options for support include professional counselling using qualified psychotherapists; complementary therapies; group activities; volunteering opportunities; couples support; and professional counselling support for partners and family members.  All support is tailored to the individual’s needs and designed to help survivors work through their trauma, move forward, and improve their social wellbeing and psychological health, enabling and supporting them to enjoy an attainable standard of living, health, and family life.

Break the Silence is led by Sharon Belshaw, CEO-Clinical and Lesley Craig, CEO-Operations.  Founded in 2004, the organisation now has over 16 years of experience supporting survivors and from inception to end of May 2021, the charity has offered professional support to 3285 people and have offered a total of 33874.5 hours of clinical support and 1255.5 hours on non-clinical support.

Adapting to the Pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, the charity has worked within government, public health and BACP guidelines to continue to provide their vital services.  They successfully transitioned to a remote working model and can now offer support in the form of telephone counselling, asynchronous counselling using email, and video counselling using the NHS platform Attend Anywhere.  Using this platform, they have also been able to continue offering EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy.  Finding new ways of working throughout 2020 has brought challenges; however, it has also provided Break the Silence with the opportunity to explore and improve service choice and increased accessibility for clients; explore opportunities to reduce their impact on the environment; and embrace digital technology.

It’s a Virtual First

In March 2021, Break the Silence were delighted to hold their first virtual conference, with over 120 in attendance from a range of public, private and third sector organisations.  The conference, which was compered by Theresa Talbot, Author and BBC Radio Scotland presenter, featured a mix of presentations, talks, interviews and interactive sessions.  As well as focussing on the different types of trauma; the impact this can have on the senses and body; and on the impact for maternity care, the day also highlighted messages of recovery – of hope and resilience.  There was also focus on vicarious trauma and the importance of self-care (possibly more important now than it has ever been).

The panel interviews helped look more closely at the impact of sexual abuse being highlighted in plays and novels, and the importance of raising awareness and breaking down stigma.

“I thought this was a really valuable workshop and I have enhanced my understanding of trauma and the challenges experienced by survivors through attending this.”

It was a jam-packed day with speakers including Actor, Writer and Activist Matthew McVarish; Specialist Clinical Psychologist Dr Karen Treisman; Midwife Dr Geraldine Butcher; Community Justice Advisor for Community Justice Scotland and Development Officer for Violence Reduction Unit James Docherty; and Counsellor and Psychotherapist Kirsten Amis.  The panel discussion led by Theresa Talbot allowed us to hear more from Matthew McVarish; Writer and Actor Alex Gwyther; and Writer and Clinical Hypnotherapist Michael J. Malone.

Break the Silence were pleased to report that 100% of attendees found the conference educational and informative with 95.6% saying they now have a better understanding of trauma, and 97.8% saying they now have a better understanding of the challenges experienced by survivors.

For further information on the day, including links and resources which were discussed you can visit the conference page of the website at – BTS Conference 2021 – Break The Silence

 Staff and Trustees

Break the Silence continue to recognise the achievements of their team, without whom they would be unable to continue providing vital support to survivors.  The counsellors have adapted quickly to remote counselling and have undertaken additional training to further their self-development.  Health and wellbeing remain high on the agenda with the implementation of an Employee Assistance Scheme and offers of additional supervision including peer support groups.


With thanks to funding secured through National Lottery, clinical staff have been able to undertake cyber therapy training and EMDR Child/Adolescent training.  Recognising the importance of continuous professional development, Break the Silence were also delighted to be able to offer a trauma training course in May 2021 with Dr Karen Treisman, MBE.

Karen is the director of Safe Hands and Thinking minds training and consultancy services.  A highly specialist clinical psychologist who has worked in the NHS and children’s services for several years, Karen has also worked cross-culturally in both Africa and Asia with groups ranging from former child soldiers to survivors of the Rwandan Genocide.  In addition to holding a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Karen has undergone a range of specialist trainings including in EMDR, Narrative Therapy, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Sensory Attachment Intervention, and Theraplay; and has extensive experience in the areas of trauma, parenting and attachment.

“Fabulous training.  Karen was very inspirational, motivational and energetic.  She made a difficult subject easy to understand with real life situations and slides.”

The course, which looked at understanding the impact of relational and developmental trauma and disrupted attachment on children’s brains, bodies, emotions, relationships and behaviours, was opened up to the public for bookings in order to share the essential learning opportunity.  It took place over two days in May and provided an abundance of learnings around the multi-layered impact of trauma, neglect, toxic stress, and disrupted attachment on children, adolescents, and on their surrounding adults.  The event proved very popular with 94.6% rating the event as excellent, and comments received showed just how valuable this was.  Break the Silence have plans in place to secure another opportunity to attend the course; as well as plans to host a follow-up event to further build on the skills learned.  More details will be released on their website and social media channels in due course.

Service Feedback

“I cannot thank my counsellor and Break the Silence enough for the excellent support and help throughout my trauma.  I can now speak about my past and this has helped my move onto pastures new.  Break the Silence offer a service where there is a gap in mental health for sufferers of abuse.”

“Without this support I don’t think I would be here today.  This is a much needed service with empathetic, knowledgeable and friendly staff.”

“Before I came to Break the Silence I was on a destructive cycle caused by shame, fear and anger.  Within two sessions where I was believed, I was able to feel safe enough to share without the fear of being judged.  This was pinnacle of beginning my life again.”

Break the Silence have seen a steady overall increase in referrals over the years and their response is that they are actively recruiting psychotherapists to reduce waiting lists and to ensure swift access to professional quality support.  The biggest impact of support can be seen through the feedback received from clients, some examples of which are included above and below.

“I could not have wished for a more caring, supportive, empathetic, experienced counsellor. I told (my counsellor) not only did she embody these qualities but also the environment she created felt safe and loving right from the moment I met her through to our last consultation this morning.”

“Working with Break the Silence has been life-changing.”

“The first time I heard of Break the Silence was quite by chance in the local doctors’ surgery waiting room. I am hardly ever in there, so seeing the Break the Silence poster and leaflet dispenser at a time when I was becoming more vulnerable emotionally concerning my current life circumstances seemed like synchronicity. I am grateful to whoever it is that delivers these posters and leaflets and would appreciate it if you could convey my thanks to them.”

Who Can Access Support?

People living in East or North Ayrshire, who are 13 years or older, and have been affected by sexual trauma – this includes survivors, family members and partners of survivors.  Break the Silence welcomes people of all genders without prejudice and supports equality and diversity. However, we are unable to support people who have committed, been charged or convicted of a sexual offence.

Who Can Make a Referral?

Break the Silence accept self-referrals; referrals from a third party such as a friend or family member; and referrals from other organisations.  If referring on behalf on someone else please make sure they have given their consent to do so and to be contacted by Break the Silence.

How Are Referrals Made?

Referrals can be made over the phone, by email, or through the website.

Telephone: 01563 559558 (please note phone lines are open Monday – Friday 9am – 4.30pm.  Out-with these times please feel free to leave a message and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.



Support In Other Areas

If you need support and are not resident in East or North Ayrshire, a digital directory of organisations providing support to survivors in Scotland at this time can be found at the link below.  This digital directory was created by Inspiring Scotland.

Break the Silence continue to update the resources section of their website within the dedicated Client Area – Break The Silence and Partner Area – Break The Silence, offering a range of self-help resources, links, articles, and further information.

You can find out more on the work of Break the Silence by watching their overview video at Break The Silence | Overview on Vimeo or further information is available on their website –  Changing lives through professional support. – Break The Silence

Tel: (01563) 559558



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