Reveal Magazine & Rape Crisis Call to Increase the Number of ISVAs.

Today (Friday 6th September) saw the launch of Reveal Magazine’s campaign “Report Every Rape’.

Reveal Magazine established the campaign following their shock about the conviction rates for sexual offences and have conducted a survey of over 1000 women in London. Their survey found that ‘15% of those polled had been forced to have sex against their will. One-fifth of victims had gone to the police about their attack – but an overwhelming 86% believed they would have been more likely to if there were more independent workers to support them through the justice system’.

Following discussions with Rape Crisis, Reveal have decided to petition the government to increase the number of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs). LimeCulture wholeheartedly supports Reveal’s campaign to increase the number of ISVAs.

ISVAs are professionals who provide independent support to victims of sexual violence to report their abuse, access support services and provide vital support throughout the court process. LimeCulture has been a huge advocate for the ISVA role and we have written a number of blogs about them over the last year or so click here and here and here. Since 2011, we have trained over 80 ISVAs (our 5th cohort of ISVAs are due to start their training in October 2013) and we held the first National Event for ISVAs (Knowledge and Network) in April 2013 with King’s College London, which was attended by over 70 ISVAs. They are a fantastic and dedicated bunch, and we need to make sure that every single person (woman, man and child) who experiences sexual violence has access to a properly trained ISVA. So it is great to see Reveal’s commitment to increasing the number of ISVAs across the country.

However, much much more needs to be done to support ISVAs. Increasing the number of ISVAs is important but more needs to be done first. For example, it is unknown exactly how many ISVAs there are working across the country. There is no up to date register of ISVAs, so it is impossible to know how many there are or where they work. Therefore, it is impossible to know how many more ISVAs are needed. It is not known how many victims have access to an ISVA, so it is impossible to know how many don’t have access to an ISVA.

Now, we know that more ISVAs are needed because the ISVAs tell us they could use more support. We know there is a deficit of ISVA service provision but we don’t know how big that gap is. We know that many ISVAs are overworked and many feel stressed in their jobs. Some ISVAs have very large caseloads and run themselves ragged trying to support to many people. However, there are also ISVAs who are not.

The important thing here is the ISVA role varies dramatically from area to area. In fact, the ISVA role varies from organisation to organisation. Worryingly, this means that the quality of the support provided by ISVAs also varies dramatically. Some ISVAs are brilliant and we know they are providing excellent quality support to victims. We know because we’ve trained them. We know because we’ve worked with them. BUT we also know that some ISVAs are not providing high quality services. We know that some ISVAs have given the wrong information and advice to victims and we know that the way that some organisations have interpreted the ISVA role is dangerous and unsafe.

We also know that when ISVAs get their jobs right, the outcomes for victims are fantastic and invaluable. But in some areas, the ISVAs are not ALLOWED to do their jobs. In some areas, the role of the ISVA is not properly understood by other professionals and the ISVAs get blocked from doing their jobs. In some areas, ISVAs have been stopped from entering the courtroom to support their clients. In some areas, the police or doctors don’t tell the victim that there are ISVAs that can give them support.

LimeCulture is working very hard to make improvements in support of the ISVA role and try to address these issues. So while we strongly support Reveal’s campaign to increase the number of ISVAs. There is more that needs to be done first.

Lets make sure that the ISVAs that are already in place can do their jobs properly, by giving them (and their organisations) the tools they need. Lets make sure that the ISVA in Birmingham provides the same high quality service that the ISVA in Norfolk, Surrey, Liverpool and Cardiff provide so that it doesn’t matter in what area you are, the ISVA provision is ALL high-quality.  Lets make sure that ALL ISVAs are specially trained, and to a very high level.  Lets make it clear to the ISVAs themselves (and the organisations that employ them) what is part of the ISVAs job and what is NOT part of the ISVAs job. Lets make sure that other professionals know what ISVAs do and LET them do it. Lets help people know where the ISVAs are and how to contact them for support. Lets get the ISVA role right before we increase the number who can get it wrong.

LimeCulture’s 5th Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) Development Programme starts in October 2013. Click here to find out more.

LimeCulture will be holding a Workshop for ISVA Managers on Tuesday 26 November 2013 in Manchester. Click here to find out more.

For more information about the work of LimeCulture visit our website www.limeculture.co.uk.

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