FMSO – The Norwegian Foundation Against Sexual Abuse
The Norwegian Foundation Against Sexual Abuse, known as Fellesskap Mot Seksuelle Overgrep / FMSO in Norwegian, was established in 1999 and is the umbrella-organization for Norway’s Support Centers for Survivors of Incest and Sexual Abuse (Senter Mot Incest og Seksuelle Overgrep / SMISO).
FMSO is as a liaison between the Support Centers / SMISO organizations and coordinates various activities, such as work shops for the Executive Directors at the Support Centers, conferences and various projects. In addition, FMSO functions as the Support Centers’ advocate in contact with the authorities and the media. FMSO is not affiliated with any political or religious groups.
FMSO is an NGO. Most NGOs in Norway do, however, receive funding from the Government. FMSO is financed by the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, as well as through an annual fee paid by the member organizations. FMSO´s office is located in Oslo and is run by an Executive Director. FMSO is a member of the Norwegian Coalition for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
SUPPORT CENTERS FOR SURVIVORS OF INCEST AND SEXUAL ABUSE
The Support Centers offer services to survivors of incest, sexual abuse, and rape, and the services are based on the ideology of self-help.
At the Support Centers, men, women and youth receive support in their healing process after experiencing sexual abuse. The Support Centers are also open to family members, partners, friends or anyone affected by sexual abuse, who may be in need of information, counseling, and assistance. Some Centers also provide services to children. When a client is under the age of 18, it is requested that the Support Centers cooperate with statutory services, such as Child Welfare agencies, Primary Physicians, the Children and Young People’s Psychiatric Out-Patient Clinics (BUP) or Children’s Advocacy Centers.
Norway consists of 19 counties and has a total population of about 5 million people. There is at least one Support Center in each county, counting 22 centers all together. Survivors of sexual abuse or anyone in need of services are free to contact any Support Center they prefer. Five of the Support Centers are combined with Domestic Abuse Centers. Norway also has a Support Center that provides services to survivors of rape only (DIXI). On behalf of the Department of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, one of the Support Centers runs a National Helpline for survivors of sexual abuse. The Help Line receives approximately 19 000 inquiries each year. Most of the Support Centers are members of FMSO.
The Support Centers for Survivors of Incest and Sexual Abuse are financed through Municipal-, County-, Regional Health Authority- and Government funding, in which 20 % local funding generates 80 % state funding.
Self-help is based on a perspective on human life that emphasizes the individual’s inborn ability for psychological healing and growth. The Support Centers believe that everyone has innate resources, and that each person is the expert on their own life. Many survivors of sexual abuse will at some point be in need of help and support. When they recognize that they are struggling and need help, and then use their own experiences to mobilize inherent powers to obtain a better life, it is regarded as self-help. The Support Centers facilitate “help to self-help” through their various services.
The Support Centers provide services, such as counseling by phone, individual counseling sessions at the center, social fellowship, participation in self-help groups, and various other activities, such as group meetings and lectures. The different services may be beneficial before, during, or after receiving treatment in the public health care system. For many individuals, it is sufficient to have the support of staff members and peers at a Support Center. In collaboration with staff members, clients define their own needs in their healing process. The role of the staff is to support and challenge each client in a positive direction.
Many of the Support Centers also emphasize the importance of peer support. Through years of experience, the Support Centers have found that meeting others with similar experiences can provide mutual understanding, an opportunity for learning, and last but not least, support in the healing process.
No referrals – services are free
There is no need for a referral in order to obtain services at the Support Centers. All services are free of charge and there is no waiting list. The Support Centers do not keep personal information about clients on file. The authorities do, however, require the Support Centers to keep records of the demographics of the clients and which services are being provided. This is done anonymously.
AWARENESS AND PREVENTION PROGRAMS
In addition to providing services to survivors of sexual abuse and anyone affected by the abuse, FMSO and the Support Centers see as an important mission to make society aware of the negative effects of sexual abuse. This is done through political lobbying and various forms of educational programs directed towards professionals, children and youth. Most of the Support Centers offer customized educational programs to other organizations and institutions upon request. The Support Centers also provide information and guidance to professionals within the public health and social services.
Incest and sexual abuse are often rarely discussed issues, which in itself perpetuates the problem. Particularly in cases of incest, the perpetrator often relies on the secretive nature of the topic to facilitate the abuse. The Support Centers’ intensions are therefore to empower children and youth by providing a safe, professional and supportive forum where they are able to talk about topics that might otherwise be subjected to secrecy. The Support Centers’ educational programs in primary school aim to:
- Enhance children’s knowledge about incest and sexual abuse.
- Enhance their ability to recognize early signs of grooming and transboundary behavior.
- Provide children with the adequate skills to seek help if necessary.
The educational programs are based on an openended dialog between children and professionals from the Support Centers. The session duration is about two hours and a teacher and school nurse is required to be in the classroom with the students. Based on the age of the students, topics covered include positive/negative touch and emotions, good vs. bad secrets, the body, private parts and sexuality, incest and sexual abuse, divorce, substance abuse, violence, illness, children’s rights, criminal offences and safe caregivers.
About 3000 individuals contact the Support Centers by phone, text, or email each year, and approximately the same amount of individuals visit the Support Centers to receive services there. Records show that 7 out of 10 individuals were 12 years old or younger the first time they were sexually abused, while 4 out of 10 were 7 years old or younger. About 28 % report being sexually abused by a biological parent, while about 8 % report being abused by a non-biological parent. Furthermore, about 8 % report being sexually abused by a biological sibling and about 20 % by a friend or someone they knew and trusted.
Over the years, these numbers tend not to change. The Support Centers’ records tell us that abuse often starts at an early age, and that the perpetrator is often someone the child victim knows and trusts.