Specialised Mental Health Programs Supporting Women Survivors of Sexual Exploitation

The 2018 International Mental Health Conference is almost upon us again, this year the conference will be held over the 8th – 10th August at the RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

This annual conference is now in its 19th year and continues to be the pinnacle event in the mental health industry. The Conference provides an invaluable opportunity to build relationships and to share knowledge, research and latest policies.

Ms Emily Hanscamp, CEO & PhD Student at Herspace & RMIT joins us at the conference to discuss ‘Specialised Mental Health Programs Supporting Women Survivors of Sexual Exploitation’.

Emily Hanscamp


The sexual exploitation of girls and women in Australia is an unaddressed, little spoken about, yet harrowing social issue, impacting over 69,000 girls and women.

Victim-survivors face significant stigma alongside rates of post-traumatic-stress-disorder as high as 93%.

Unaddressed trauma in survivors lives compounds stigma and is a significant risk factor for sexual exploitation, and for recidivism post-exit.

It is essential trauma be addressed in meaningful, lasting ways.

Yet survivors face stigma creating barriers to accessing mainstream mental health services. Women report experiencing stigma through their involvement in the sex trade being misunderstood and judged. Mainstream practitioners have insufficient knowledge and training to address women’s specific needs appropriately. Consequently, women avoid accessing mental health support. Local and international researchers suggest a specialised approach.

HerSpace is a new Australian community service, offering such a specialised approach with evidence-based, trauma-informed mental health programs for girl and women survivors of sexual exploitation.

Through developing an interconnected suite of best-practice programs, HerSpace is documenting unprecedented stories of impact.

The HerSpace Model allows survivors to select which program arms will suit their current needs, harnessing a participatory, collaborative approach. The 7 programs include:
• HerHealing 1:1 counselling
• HerCircle group therapy
• HerCommunity wellbeing workshops
• HerHorizon education and employment pathways
• HerAdvocacy trauma-informed advocacy platforms
• HerOutreach mental health outreach
• Training & Social Change for the wider community

Critically, HerSpace prioritises a non-judgemental service, where fostering women’s sense of agency is central, their history and current decisions related to the sex-trade respected. HerSpace practitioners hold evidence-based, expert knowledge of sexual exploitation and its impacts on women’s lives, specifically trauma and mental health-related impacts.

Showcasing evaluative evidence of a cutting-edge approach to mental health service delivery developed by HerSpace, this presentation will demonstrate how HerSpace is dismantling stigma historically preventing women accessing mental-health trauma-recovery support.


With a BA of Social Work and BA of Psychology, Emily is the Founder and CEO of HerSpace, a community service organisation in Melbourne. She is also an RMIT Doctoral Student, public speaker, published writer and counsellor. She has field experience in mental-health; trauma, feminist, and emotion-focused therapy; sexual-assault advocacy and counselling; family violence; case management; community and international development. Emily holds executive leadership, research and program management experience across Melbourne, the Philippines and Mumbai. She focuses on addressing the psychosocial needs of victim-survivors of sexual exploitation, violence and abuse, and runs a private counselling practice in Melbourne.

For further information on the upcoming 19th International Mental Health Conference and to secure your spot please visit anzmh.asn.au/conference


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