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.


LimeCulture offers a range of training and development programmes for professionals working with victims of sexual violence. Please visit our website 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

Collaboration not Competition

‘Collaboration not competition’ – an important message that was raised by the Women’s Resource Centre at a recent event that was attended by LimeCulture.

LimeCulture wholeheartedly agrees with the WRC when they say that collaboration, not competition, is key to the survival of many specialist organisations. LimeCulture believe that the sexual violence sector could benefit enormously from the concept of collaboration.

Here is why. In the past, the specialist sexual violence sector have not always coordinated their responses and have not worked together as a united sector. In fact on some occasions, they have been openly divided by political and theoretical differences of opinion. Some sexual violence organisations have been in direct competition with other sexual violence organisations and have become competitive about the services that they provide. While competition can, in some circumstances, drive up standards and offer choice, it can also isolate and holt innovation and development.

Today we find ourselves in challenging climates. The budgets are getting smaller and its harder to get a slice of the cake. We are now being asked to enter competitive tendering arrangements to win contracts. Gone are the days when a ‘grant’ arrangement could be quickly put in place for an organisations that needs bailing out. Today it is all about contracts. It is all about service delivery. It is all about evidencing your outcomes. Its about showing YOUR bang for THEIR buck.

While the benefits and the disadvantages of competitive tendering can be argued, it is definitely time the sexual violence sector is properly funded. In order to be properly funded, organisations needs to be commissioned, and contracted. Unfortunately, many small organisations are not yet commissioner-ready. They are not used to competitive tendering arrangements and they are still not used to evidencing their outcomes. Unless these organisations get themselves ready or in shape, they could very likely loose out.

There are so many fantastic organisations and individual professionals that work in the field of sexual violence. There is so much fantastic practice that goes on and we really must make sure that this is not lost. LimeCulture believes that is is time that the sexual violence sector collaborate to learn from each other by sharing experiences, identifying solutions to shared or common problems, work together to win contracts, and most importantly,  collaborate to create something remarkable.


A very inspiring International Women’s Day

LimeCulture was privileged to be invited to attend an event held last week to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March . The event was organised by the British Pregnancy Adviser Service (BPAS) and Women’s Resource Centre.

The event was put on because these two organisations believe that ‘Women’s sector organisations working to influence policy have had a difficult time recently. The challenges posed by public spending cuts that disproportionately affect women, development of policy that doesn’t accurately reflect women’s needs and attacks on issues like abortion have all caused significant problems. However, there have been notable successes’.

LimeCulture and a range of other organisations were invited to attend the event to discuss and share experiences with colleagues in the women’s sector. It was a great event with some really inspirational women who are working hard to make things better for other women.

We heard from Hannanah Siddiqui from Southall Black Sisters, an award winning organisation that campaigns on behalf of women from the black and minority ethnic communities. Hannanah told us about the work that her organisation is doing on the ‘Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds’ Campaign. We then heard from Ros Bragg from Maternity Action who told us about the work they have been doing recently to safeguard the rights of women who are pregnant or have just had babies. The final speaker was from the Women’s Resource Centre, and spoke of the importance of women’s organisations working together in collaboration, not competition, if they are to survive into the future.

The whole event was excellent. It was great to see people sharing their successes and achievements. LimeCulture certainly hopes to be part of any future events of this sort.


Should a victim of sexual violence meet with the prosecutor before the trial begins?

Recently a number of ISVAs have asked whether a victim can meet the prosecutor who will be presenting their case before the matter goes to trial i.e. before the trial date.
In some areas, although this has been encouraged by the ISVAs, the police have intimated that counsel (ie the prosecutor) is unhappy for this to happen and as a result they are openly discouraging such meetings. This view is at variance with the CPS Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Rape.

That policy directs that where it is intended to apply for special measures for a witness, the CPS should ask the police to find out if the witness would like to meet the prosecutor. The policy goes on to explain that the purpose of such a meeting is to build trust and confidence and to enable the prosecutor to reassure the witness that their needs will be taken into account.
Likewise the policy also indicates that on the day of trial the prosecutor presenting the case should speak to victims and witnesses before they give evidence and try to put them at ease and to explain the court process to them.

However it is important to note that in those meetings prosecutors are not permitted to discuss the detail of the case with a witness.
It is also recognised as good practice, wherever possible, to coordinate the victim’s court familiarisation visit with their special measures meeting and the conference with counsel so that the victim may meet the trial advocate ahead of the trial.

So, given the above, if this practice is discouraged in the future, please use CPS policy to further your argument in favour of the meeting.
A full copy of the policy can be found at

ISVAs: Raising the standards of support for victims of sexual violence

Independent Sexual Violence Advisers, or ISVAs as they are often known, play a hugely important role in supporting victims of rape and sexual violence. They are victim-focused advocates, that work with people who have experienced sexual violence to access the services they need.

The role of the ISVA was originally championed by the Home Office in 2006, after they saw the success of a few inspirational people supporting victims to access the support they needed following a sexual assault. Although these people were not then called ISVAs and were operating under a different name, they were in fact the pioneers of the ISVA role. The role of the Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) had also been very successfully received and the Home Office thought it a good idea to adapt this role to meet the needs of victims of sexual violence. Over the following few years, the Home Office has provided funding to specialist sexual violence organisations and Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) to increase the ISVA workforce across England and Wales.

The role of the ISVA has been considered to be a great success and ISVA roles have been created in a range of organisations. In 2010, when Baroness Stern did her independent review on How Rape Complaints are Handled, she ran a series of Focus Groups and visited organisations throughout the country, and found from every organisation, unanimous praise for the work done by ISVAs.

ISVAs support victims through the process, whether or not the case goes to trial (and indeed their support is particularly welcomed in dealing with the reactions when it is decided that the case is not going to trial), and afterwards. They do an impressive,  important and very difficult job. The value of their support should not be underestimated.

LimeCulture would like to see every victim, whether they are male, female, child or adult have access to an ISVA following a sexual assault. They should also have access to an ISVA whether or not they choose to report their abuse. In some parts of the country this is already a reality, but sadly, in most areas it is not. There is not enough ISVAs and it is not always clear how a victim can access the support of an ISVA. In fact, it is unknown exactly how many ISVAs there are through the country as there is not a directory or even a comprehensive list of who they are and where they work. The Home Office has a list of the organisations they have provided with funding for ISVAs, but there are also ISVAs that have not been funded by the Home Office that are working with victims and, therefore do not appear on any such list.

There is not an overarching professional body that oversees ISVAs or regulates their work. There is no single organisation that an ISVA can turn to with professional questions or for support. There are a number of accredited training courses for ISVAs (limeCulture provides one of them), which is different to IDVAs who are all trained by a single organisation called CAADA. A single training provider means that you can be sure that all professionals that have undertaken that training will have be taught to the same standard. Unfortunately, the variety of ISVA training means that standards may well be different for the ‘trained’ ISVAs. Furthermore, ISVA training is not mandatory and there has been no coordination to identify which ISVAs have not undergone training.

LimeCulture has been a huge supporter of the ISVA role and will continue to be so into the future. However, we have been very concerned about the isolation that many ISVAs have told us they feel. We know that there are ISVAs sitting out there, doing very difficult jobs with the most vulnerable people, without professional or peer support and without any training. We have also been concerned about the differences in the way the ISVA role has been developed and delivered by different services. Unfortunately, in some services, we believe the interpretation of the ISVA role has lead to dangerous and unsafe practice.

The recognition of the ISVA workforce is also varied- some ISVAs say their role is completely understood and supported by other professionals (such as police, lawyers, courts etc) while in other areas, the ISVAs have a daily battle with other agencies who don’t understand who they are or what they are trying to do- which often leads the ISVA to being blocked or left out of discussions concerning their clients. The profile of ISVAs needs to be raised so that this doesn’t happen in any part of the country.

That said, we don’t think any of the problems with the ISVA role are insurmountable and with a little bit of clever thinking and coordination, we think the ISVA workforce could be a strong, confidence and competent workforce that is recognised and valued by all agencies and professionals just as much as they are valued by their clients.

Alarmingly, despite all of the support for ISVAs, their future is uncertain. In 2010, Baroness Stern said that as ‘an example of a reform to a system that is effective, cost-effective and affordable, the establishment of ISVAs is hard to beat. They help the victim to make sense of the system. They help the police by supporting a victim throughout the investigation. They help the prosecution by supporting the victim through the psychologically gruelling process of preparing to give evidence. They provide a link between the criminal case that is under way and the range of social agencies whose help may be needed. Victims find that an ISVA makes an enormous difference to the way they feel about what is happening to them. Yet ISVAs are not securely funded‘.

This is still the case today- if not worse-  for ISVAs whose posts are almost always short fixed-term contracts with unsustainable or unsecured funding.  All agencies and organisations are operating in times of financial constraint, but this is an area of funding which, above all other forms of support, should not be withdrawn to the detriment of victims reporting rape and accessing the support they need.

The changes to public services such as the NHS, Local Authorities and police will undoubtedly have an impact on ISVAs whose posts may have been funded or part funded by statutory agencies. The ISVA role needs to be safeguarded and funding continued in order to make sure that victims of sexual violence are still able to access the support regardless of the changes to public services taking place.

So how do we safeguard the role of the ISVA? LimeCulture believe the first step in this is to raise the standards of the ISVA role to ensure that high-quality, effective support is available from professional ISVAs. If ISVAs (and ISVA services) can show their impact, the positive outcomes their services have on victims and that they deliver these incredible services with great value for money, funders are much more likely to continue to fund them into the future. If we raise the standards, it becomes much harder for funders and commissioners to argue the case for funding cuts.

So how do you raise the standards? Well, LimeCulture think the best way to start is to let the ISVAs learn from each other. There is some examples of great practice going on out there and there are some brilliant ISVAs. There are also some ISVAs who have worked really hard to make things in their areas better for victims and they have considerable learning that they could share. LimeCulture think ISVAs should be brought together so that they can talk to each other and learn what works and what doesn’t work.

In April, LimeCulture and Kings College London are jointly hosting a national event for ISVAs. We hope this will be the start of something fantastic for ISVAs. Our aim is to bring as many ISVAs together as possible so that they can meet each other and learn from each other. We want all the ISVAs, regardless of who funds them or who employs them, to be a united workforce and the only way we think this can happen is if they are brought together to network and update their knowledge.

Knowledge and Network: An Event for ISVAs is being held on Thursday 25 April 2013 on the Strand in London. A fantastic range of speakers have been secured including Baroness Stern, Carlene Furmin, Dr Sam Warner. It promises to be a great day.

To book a place, please email


LimeCulture presents at national sexual health conference

LimeCulture was asked to present at the national sexual health conference ‘Into the Future: Sexual Health Beyond Transition‘ on 15 February 2013. The conference was organised by NHS London‘s Sexual Health Programme and the aim was to celebrate the achievements of sexual health services with a view to taking the learning about ‘what works’ as preparations begin for Local Authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS Commissioning Board to commission sexual health services from 1 April.

LimeCulture was asked to speak about Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and what the future holds for the network of specialist services for victims of rape and sexual assault with regard to the monumental changes that are taking place within the NHS and other public services.

The majority of the audience were sexual health commissioners and service providers – and not from the specialist sexual violence sector- Stephanie Reardon, speaking on behalf of LimeCulture explained the huge scale of the challenge in relation to sexual violence and the estimated numbers of women, men and children who experience sexual violence every year and the need for them to have a high quality and effective multi-agency response. She explained the need for robust and clear pathways between SARCs and sexual health services, where many victims will access support- often without disclosing their abuse. There is a real need for professionals to be able to identify and respond to these vulnerable people and their specific needs in relation to sexual violence- and to make onward referrals to appropriate services, such as SARCs.

Stephanie then went on to outline policy context around sexual violence and why the previous Government and the Coalition Government have been so supportive of SARCs. For anyone not familiar with the concept of a SARC, they are specialist services where men, women and children can receive medical care and access to counselling, and have the opportunity to assist a police investigation, including undergoing a forensic examination, if they so chose. They are located throughout England and Wales, Scotland and the SARC in Northern Ireland is due to open it’s doors shortly.

Stephanie- and all of the LimeCulture team- have extensive experience of SARCs following the 2 year programme of work by the Department of Health‘s National Support Team for the Response to Sexual Violence. The National Support Team was established to provide support to areas developing a SARC and also to ensure that existing SARCs were operating as well as possible. Stephanie’s presentation outlined the findings from the National Support Team visits and how the network of SARCs has been developed over the last few years.  The presentation focused on the importance of SARC service provision to support victims of sexual violence and the need to safeguard such important services while the commissioning arrangements change.

The next few years could prove to be a turbulent time for SARCs. New commissioning arrangements and the inevitable changes to contracting and monitoring that this will bring, providers of SARC services will need to demonstrate their effectiveness, value for money and overall outcomes for the people who use these services. The quality  and productivity of these services will undoubtedly have to be of the highest standard in order to see them (re)commissioned into the future and beyond transition.


ACPO National Multi Agency Child Protection Conference

This annual event has just come to a close in Leicestershire. Originally intended for serving police officers, the conference is now attended by many professionals both from the statutory agencies and third sector. Kim attended in her capacity as a member of the national safeguarding panel in sport.

Kim was initially invited to attend as a guest but was then asked to sit as a panel member advising the audience on the disclosure of information. It was a lively session and threw up the confusion that surrounds disclosure for all professionals involved in this area of work.

The conference was also given an update on the Jimmy Saville enquiry by the  officer who has been leading the investigation. He also spoke about the increase in the the number of historic disclosures reported to the police since the Jimmy Saville enquiry began in October. It was clear  that support for these victims who had chosen to speak out was a key priority for the police.

Happy New Year from LimeCulture

Happy New Year to all of you! 2013 promises to be another great year for LimeCulture.

Here at LimeCulture we are very excited about the coming year and what we have in store for us. We have got lots of work to keep us busy but we are determined to stay focused on improving the confidence and competence of frontline professionals responding to victims of sexual violence.

From now through until April we will be preparing for the National Conference  ‘Knowledge and Network: An Event for ISVAs’ and making sure that is as good as it can possibly be for this important workforce. See our previous post for more information about this Event and how to book.

We will also be focused on training professionals and have a number of training courses running over the next couple of months. Some of our courses are fully booked, so we will be announcing further dates for Court Skills and Crisis Worker in the coming months. We still have a few places left on the 2013 ISVA Development Programme so if you would like to join the June – November 2013 cohort, please contact us for further information.

The LimeCulture experts also provide support and advice to commissioners and funders of specialist sexual assault services. Last year, LimeCulture was commissioned to undertake a number of Independent Service Reviews to assess the quality of service provision on behalf of commissioners. Due to the unique blend of skills and experience of our experts, LimeCulture are able to identify strengths and challenges of service provision and make recommendations to improve the response of services to victims of sexual violence. In light of the changing NHS landscape and the new Police and Crime Commissioners and the impact these will have on commissioning arrangements for sexual assault services, we believe this year could be a turbulent one for sexual assault services who may have to compete against other services in times of dwindling budgets. Showing positive outcomes and value for money has probably never been so important for services who will need to show their value to cash strapped commissioners. Over the next year, LimeCulture will continue to focus on supporting commissioners and funders of sexual violence services, but we will also shift our focus to support specialist sexual violence services to achieve excellence and demonstrate their impact to commissioners and funders. Our aim is to help services to become ‘commissioner ready’ and to remain properly commissioned, funded and supported.

In 2013 LimeCulture will also be working internationally! As well as being asked to provide bespoke training to sexual assault services overseas, we have also been asked to visit and speak at a number of international events on sexual violence. While the UK very much remains our focus, we will be taking up a few of the offers in the hope of learning what other countries do to support victims of sexual violence and whether there is anything that we can learn from others. We will report back on our findings! Watch this space!

So there is lots to do in 2013 and LimeCulture is excited about doing it!! We hope 2013 is an excellent year for you too!

Bookings Now Being Taken for Knowledge and Network: An Event for ISVAs

This major event is jointly hosted by King’s College London and LimeCulture and will take place at KCL’s Campus on the Strand, London on Thursday 25 April 2013.  Places are limited so early bookings are recommended to avoid disappointment.

The programme has now been confirmed and speakers and workshop hosts include:

  • Baroness Vivien Stern
  • Professor Susuan Lea, King’s College London
  • Carlene Firmin, Office of the Children’s Commissioner
  • Sam Warner, Clinical Psychologist
  • Charlotte Triggs, Crown Prosecution Service
  • Jeff Goodright, National Police Improvement Agency
  • Shelly Stoops, ISVA

This event is suitable for:

  • Independent Sexual Violence Advisers
  • Advocates
  • Children and Young People’s Workers
  • Service Managers
  • Commissioners
  • Other professionals working in partnership with ISVAs (such as Police, CPS, health professionals)

To see the full programme and booking form, please email

This promises to be a great event and we are all looking forward to it!

Knowledge and Network: An Event for ISVAs April 2013

Knowledge and Network: An Event for Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs)

Kings College London and LimeCulture are pleased to announce that they will be jointly hosting a national conference for ISVAs in April 2013. The Conference will take place at Kings’ Campus located on The Strand in central London.

This major event will bring together professionals to share knowledge and provide a unique opportunity to network with other members of the ISVA workforce.

You will have the opportunity to:

  • share expertise with like-minded delegates
  • learn about how other ISVAs services operate
  • discuss operational challenges faced by ISVAs
  • identify solutions to improve responses and raise standards
  • contribute to creating a strong, professional and recognised ISVA workforce

This event is suitable for:

  • Independent Sexual Violence Advisers
  • Advocates
  • Service Managers
  • Commissioners
  • Other professionals working in partnership with ISVAs (such as Police, CPS, health professionals etc)

If you would like to express an interest in attending this event, please contact

Alternatively, keep your eyes peeled for further information and details of how to book your place at this event. Booking information will be posted on this site and the LimeCulture website ( as soon as this event is open for bookings.

You can also subscribe to the LimeCulture E-News Letter to keep updated on our latest news and information.