The importance of training and development when working with victims of sexual violence

LimeCulture believes professional training and development are the key to improving the response to victims of sexual violence.

Sexual offences are notoriously under-reported and therefore it extremely difficult to obtain reliable information on the extent of sexual offences because the figures are heavily influenced by the willingness of victims to report. The true prevalence of sexual offences is likely to be significantly higher than the numbers of offences reported or recorded by the police.

There are a range of reasons why victims of sexual violence do not come forward and report their abuse. Sometimes it is just to painful to discuss, there may be feelings of shame or embarrassment, they may not want to involve the police or they may be scared of not being believed. What we do know is that all victims of sexual violence deserve the highest level of care and support, whether they chose to disclose their abuse or not. If they do decide to take the brave decision to tell somebody else about their abuse, and if that person is a professional, then they should expect to receive a professional response. Unfortunately, we know this doesn’t always happen.

Victims of sexual violence present to a wide variety of organisations, and at varying intervals after their assault. Many mainstream services will be dealing with these people, although the fact they have experienced sexual violence may not be apparent and go unnoticed. If they are to receive the care and support they need, it is vital for professionals to be able to identify and respond to their needs appropriately. Professionals need to feel confident in supporting people who have experienced sexual violence, whether that is making an onward referral to a specialist sexual violence service or providing them with support within their own service. Effective training will support this.

Training presents a prime opportunity to expand the knowledge and skill base of the professional. The goal of training professionals around sexual violence should center on increasing awareness about the needs of people who have experienced sexual violence and what support they might need, with particular focus on how to identify, manage and refer people on to the services that they need.  LimeCulture believe that training for people working with vulnerable people should also develop their skills around risk identification, assessment and management, documentation and record keeping- particularly as supporting victims of sexual violence can sometimes have a legal aspect to some of the cases. LimeCulture has trained lots of people whose job it is to work with and support victims of sexual violence. Many know their jobs inside out and are excellent at what they do. However, there is always more to learn, more to think about and more that can be done to support people….you don’t know what you don’t know.

Unfortunately, we have found that many employers – particularly cash strapped services- find training and development to be expensive and do not allow their staff to attend such programmes. Many of our trainees have said their employers complain that they are missing out on work time while attending training, which may delay cause delays or create cover problems. LimeCulture believe that despite the potential drawbacks, training and development provides both the service as a whole and the individual professional with benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment.

A professional who receives the necessary training is better able to perform their role and understand their responsibilities. They will become more aware of the importance of safe practices and boundaries. The training may also build the professional’s confidence because they have a stronger understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their job – and those of other professionals. This confidence may push them to perform even better and think of new ideas that help them excel at their role and ultimately, provide a better response or service to the victim who needs support. Continuous training also keeps your employees on the cutting edge of developments, changes and improvements- which can only be a good thing.

Working with and supporting victims of sexual violence – people whose lives have been shattered and are often the most vulnerable in our society – is an extremely tough job to do. The impact on the professional can be significant. LimeCulture firmly believes that professionals with access to training and development have the advantage over those professionals who do not. The investment in training and development shows the employees they are valued and that they have a supportive workplace. Employees who feel appreciated and challenged through training opportunities are more likely to feel more satisfaction toward their jobs.

LimeCulture training brings together professionals from a range of organisations, services and places across the UK. Importantly this means that professionals are able to discuss and share their own unique experiences with people doing a similar job. We have found that professionals learn and develop just as much from talking and discussing things with other members of their own workforce. The benefits of professional development through peer support or networking should not be underestimated.

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LimeCulture offers a range of training and development programmes for professionals working with victims of sexual violence. Please visit our website www.limeculture.co.uk for more information about our courses and workshops.

LimeCulture and King’s College London are jointly hosting Knowledge and Network: An Event for ISVAs on Thursday 25 April 2013 in London. The aim of the event is to bring together the ISVA workforce so that they can learn from leading professionals in particular areas that are relevant to the ISVA role, as well as learning from each others experiences. If you would like to book a places at this event, please email info@limeculture.co.uk

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