Robert Balfour
Founder and CEO of Survivors West Yorkshire and its male survivor service Bens Place

Rob is the Founder and CEO of Survivors West Yorkshire and its male survivor service Bens Place which pioneered sexual violence survivor video counselling in 2016. He has worked in roles ranging from the specialist infantry (RAF Regiment) to Director of a UK/Canadian digital services telecommunications company during the 1980/90s. He served for 10 years as a West Yorkshire Police Special Constable between 1980s and 1990s, receiving a Divisional Commander’s commendation. He has spent the last 25 years working in cross-sector contexts, including the NHS, with psychologically distressed groups, including those affected by acquired brain injury, ‘schizophrenia’, personality ‘disorder’ and sexual violence. He has commissioned and co-authored academic papers, articles and reports looking at the service needs of sexual violence survivors since the mid-2000s. A paper for the British Journal of Social Work that critically explored co-production with survivors of sexual violence which was the editor’s choice in January 2018. He has led on collaborative projects with female Rape Crisis services in West Yorkshire for over 20 years – including conferences and forums. The most recent collaboration with Rape Crisis being a Survivors ‘Leadership’ project funded by the National Lottery in 2019 which was founded on the human rights principle of “nothing for us without us and nothing about us without us”.

He was an expert advisor to the Department of Health’s (2006) exploration of sexual violence service best practice - including its Routine Inquiry pilot. He was an advisor to CEOP during its early years. He holds an Honorary Supervisor contract at the University of Liverpool's Clinical Psychology Department with a focus on Post-Traumatic Growth research. His sits on the West Yorkshire Mayors Domestic and Sexual Violence Board and recently was asked to sit on The Visible Project steering group. He obtained his BSc (Hons) Psychology in his early 50s. He recently complete his MSc (Merit) in Counselling and Positive Psychology in his early 60’s. His MSc dissertation which explores his 23 years of sexual violence activism using Autoethnography was published in early 2023 in a peer-reviewed journal.

Rob is a survivor of CSA (6 -13) and the North Wales ‘looked after care' system (1971- 1977) which was documented in the Waterhouse Inquiry (Lost in Care 2000). He was a core participant at the IICSA where his lawyers submitted his belief that a Minister should be appointed to sit at Cabinet level to coordinate a trauma responsive national strategy with statuary obligations. In West Yorkshire he most recently lobbied the Mayor’s Office to develop a standalone strategy for men and boys which would run parallel to the needed and important VAWG strategies national and local. Such a strategy is currently being scoped by an independent specialist consultancy - LimeCulture CIC.

He would like to suggest he is far more than his experiences of both sexual violence and ‘looked after care’.

Sadly, he continues to be astonished how ‘professionals’ reduce survivors to limiting constructs like ‘disordered’ and the victim-blaming and gaslighting he has witnessed for 23 years. Often in contexts and by unexpected people, which have and continue to shock him. He is currently writing a book chapter commissioned by Routledge which is exploring his journey as a male survivor gaining a psychology education which will use Star Trek metaphors, He is also writing a book about his living experience as a male sexual violence survivor which will include his reflections on his childhood. His evolving views and reflections can be accessed via twitter @RobDBalfour1

Session overview