In 1978‚ Women´s Health Care House and Australian Women Against Rape (Perth) organised a publicised 24 hour ‘phone- in’ designed to give women who had been sexually assaulted an opportunity to speak about their experiences. Of the 150 calls, more than half related to intra -familial sexual abuse. The group of women who headed up the phone call-in formed self-help and support groups after identifying that most of the women callers had been silenced and not supported by their families and loved ones. Many callers were profoundly depressed and had a mental health diagnosis.
Individual counselling as well as group counselling commenced shortly thereafter, initially on a volunteer basis. Incest Survivors’ Association Inc. (ISA) was formally incorporated in 1984 after obtaining a grant to provide services. ISA was the first non-government association to deal specifically with child sexual abuse and associated post-traumatic stress disorders later in life.
In 1986 ISA was offered partial funding by the State Government to provide professional services to the community, recognising that the thousands of annual phone calls identified a large‚ hidden‚ community problem. From this time onwards all staff had to have tertiary qualifications and clinical supervision and the association has contractual accountability provisions to the state government. ISA now operates as a non-government, non-for-profit charity. ISA currently has a ‘Preferred Provider Status’ agreement with the WA Department for Child Protection. The remainder of funds comes from client fees‚ service fees‚ donations and memberships.
ISA has expanded its services over the years to include public talks‚ training‚ a resource library, website and newsletter.