- Just say Know- Dave Hingsburger Diverse City Press ISBN: 978-1896230009
- Personal development, relationships and staying safe-Marie Walsh and Geraldine Clegg Pavilion Press ISBN 978-1-910366-97-4
- Sexual abuse-CHANGE ISBN:978-0-9572727-2-9
- Loving each other safely-Books beyond words ISBN:978-1-908020-29-1
- ARCUK-Helping each other. Sexual Exploitation training materials.
Supported Loving toolkit
Staying safe in relationships
People with a learning disability are four times more likely than other citizens to be sexually abused. This section is about supporting people to have safe, positive relationships, including sexual relationships.
Sometimes in our attempts to focus on prevention and reduction of harm our response is to offer protection and reduce opportunities to have relationships. However, there is evidence to suggest that a better approach involves providing information, education and advice that will support the development of skills to help people recognise and avoid abusive situations.
It is also important to ensure that staff and family carers have the confidence, knowledge and skills to support people to have healthy relationships, through training, information and appropriate guidance. The aim should be to recognise and positively address issues that may arise from developing relationships, whilst also being aware of the potential for harm or exploitation.
People may have difficulty in:
- understanding the stages of dating and that a first date might go wrong
- relationship breakdowns
- expectations based on fantasy/not real life (e.g. soaps)
- where to meet people safely, so sometimes turn to unsafe outlets, such as online dating
- opportunities to develop positive relationships
- understanding other people’s motives
- being able to say ‘No’.
Ways to support people
The U-Night Group in Lancashire developed a course on ‘Staying Safe in Relationships’ and thought about how we can work together to help people have healthy relationship.
These are the things that they decided we need to LISTEN UP about:
- About relationships is important for everyone. Some of the things that are helpful to know about are: what makes a healthy relationship, consent, appropriate touch, the law and what love is.
- About where to go for help. This can be hard, especially if it is not in easy read or is hard to find. It is helpful to work with universal services so that they are inclusive and accessible.
Speaking up about sex
- We need to help people be more assertive about the kind of relationships they want and make sure they can ask for support when they need it. This also means understanding personal rights and the importance of developing self-esteem.
- Having someone who listens and you can talk is an important part of a personal safety net. We are safer if we have a number of people that we trust, including people who are not paid and who love us.
- Telling people how you feel helps to build healthy and positive relationships, but sometimes we all need help with how to do this.
No means no
- This needs to be understood by everyone. Through training and support we can get better at saying no. We also need to understand that consent means both people saying Yes.
- Means self-advocates having support to have a relationship if they want to. We believe that "U" are important and deserve to be safe. We need to work with other people and agencies to make this happen.
- Leads to protection. If we know what abuse is and understand our rights, we are more likely to be safe in a relationship.
- teach people the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
- provide accessible information about where to go for help and advice.
- support the development of a range of trusted relationships.
- shy away from responding to questions that people with a learning disability might ask about sex and relationships.
- assume that ignoring the need for sexual expression will keep people safe.
- only enable people to have relationships within the confines of their service provision.
George had experienced many difficulties with relationships over the years. He had been accused of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and been cautioned by the police, who didn’t charge him due to his learning disability. He then developed what he thought was a relationship, but this person expected him to give her money for sex. She didn’t treat him well, was sometimes violent and abused him financially. Support services were worried about his safety and made a safeguarding referral. After numerous meetings it was concluded that he had capacity and had chosen to be in this relationship.
When George got involved with the U-Night Group it became clear that there were gaps in his knowledge about sexual relations, but he was also very keen to find a partner. He attended a six-week training course- ‘Y be Shy about Sex and Relationships’, which helped him to feel less embarrassed about discussing intimate issues. It also highlighted that he did not understand about consent, which had contributed to some of the earlier difficulties.
He then signed up to Meet N Match, a friendship and dating agency for adults with a learning disability and was fortunate to find a suitable partner on his first date. With a better understanding of dating, relationships and personal safety he has been able to develop a rewarding, supportive relationship with his partner.
NB George’s story is fictitious, but based on a combination of real, anonymised situations.
The U-Night Group, a user-led training organisation, based in Lancashire.
The views expressed in the Supported Loving toolkit are not necessarily those of Choice Support.