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Cervical screening after sexual violence

Posted on: Friday, 24th June 2022 by Karen Brown, WoS Network Administrator for Sexual Health & Child Protection, My Body Back

The West of Scotland My Body Back clinic was founded in February 2018.  Based on the My Body Back London service it offers cervical screening for people who have experienced rape or sexual violence who are due or overdue a smear test. STI testing and contraception services are also available.

Open to all women and other people with a cervix in Scotland, the clinic runs once a month on a Saturday in Glasgow, with all female staff who are fully trained to work with survivors.  The appointment times are longer and include additional support which is tailored to the woman’s needs. 

“I cannot describe how emotional and amazing I feel.  Thank you for offering this service.  You have no idea how much you impact on people’s lives.”  

Counsellors are available throughout the appointments, providing emotional support using breathing and relaxation techniques. A useful exercise in any situation is Ocean Breath, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth: in to the count of 5 and out to the count of 5 without pausing, like a wave coming in and out in a gentle circular motion.

“As you can imagine, it's a difficult thing to do. I actually wasn't able to successfully have a smear test before discovering My Body Back - it was too traumatic. When I was finally able to get one with MBB, I felt like I had gained back something that had been taken from me.  I want to tell you about the respect and dignity that was given to me by every single member of staff.  That they sat with me and let me decide when I was ready to go in. That they held my hand throughout it. That they made me a cup of tea. That afterwards they sat and talked quietly with me and let me cry and then gave me a little bag of gifts and that I didn’t have to leave until I was ready.” 

Anxiety levels are often very high before an appointment, and confidence low. The charts show the impact of the My Body Back service:

Anxiety Levels:

 

Confidence Levels:

 

Our primary aim is to enable women to have their smear tests, which will hopefully give them confidence to ‘Get their Body Back’ and attend future appointments, including for other clinical needs.

Janice, a My Body Back Doctor sums this up:

“Women attend for smears but you soon discover that the project is about them being able to return to that world where other women are, doing routine things like having smears. That seems to be a significant step in the right direction to helping recovery from what they have been through”.

To book an appointment visit My Body Back Project >

Janette, a Rape Crisis Worker said

“It is a pleasure to see the dedication of all the staff involved with the project it is obvious that everyone really understands the issues that women affected by gender based violence issues face. More importantly everyone wants to be working there and that belief and passion comes across when women attend the service. You can see the relief that women have when they leave and the lack of pressure that they have been put under. They know that it is okay not to go ahead straight away, they are given more of control over what is happening and from a Rape Crisis perspective that self-empowerment of women is really important.”

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