There’s an awful lot of preparation, effort and planning that goes into a successful conference, and we at LimeCulture tried to make sure that the Event was as good as it possibly could be for the ISVAs who attended. We asked what ISVAs wanted from the Event and we tried to do exactly as they asked, while trying to get the mix right between fun, networking and learning.
The Event started at a leisurely 10am with the hope that those travelling to London would not be forced to stay over the night before in order to attend the full Event. This seemed to work quite well as even the ISVAs traveling from as far away as Middlesbrough and Devon did not miss any of the keynote speech! ISVAs came from far and wide and represented a range of organisations including voluntary and community sector specialist sexual violence services, Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs), Local Authorities, Police and NHS. It was the first time that ISVAs had been brought together in this way, and although not all ISVAs were able to attend the event, a significant number of the ISVA workforce came to join us.
The Event was flawlessly chaired by Professor Susan Lea from King’s prestigious Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) who kicked off the event by warmly welcoming all of the ISVAs to the Strand Campus. Professor Lea explained the increased recognition of the importance of providing victims with advocacy and support and the growing support for the role of the ISVA. Professor Lea explained that the idea for hosting an Event to bring together ISVAs came about following the ISVA Focus groups run by the Home Office in the autumn last year. The focus groups highlighted that many ISVAs felt they lacked opportunities for ongoing training and development and that many ISVAs felt isolated in their role with little or no professional or peer support. LimeCulture and King’s College London decided to jointly host a learning event that would bring together the ISVA workforce and give them the opportunity to hear from leading professionals discuss topics relevant to the ISVA role.
Baroness Stern, author of the report ‘How Rape Complains are Handled by Public Authorities in England and Wales’ gave the keynote speech. Baroness Stern started by saying that she was thrilled to be invited to speak to a room full of ISVAs, something that has not been done before, and that during her report she had been very impressed by the ISVAs that she had come across. Baroness Stern reiterated the important role that ISVAS have in supporting victims of rape and that they play a crucial role in the criminal justice process. Baroness Stern called for all the ISVAs to unite as a workforce and organise themselves to make sure that their collective voice can be heard. An inspirational keynote speech from Baroness Stern, a great supporter of support for victims of sexual violence.
Professor Lea welcomed our next speaker Christian Papaleontiou, who is Head of the Interpersonal Violence Team in the Violent Crime Unit at the Home Office. Christian’s presentation focused on the policy context around sexual violence. Importantly, Christian said the Home Office was committed to supporting and protecting victims of sexual violence and that they recognised that ISVAs play a pivotal role in this support.
After the break, Bernie Ryan who is currently Chair of the National SARC Advisory Board and Manager of St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, spoke about the importance of ISVAs working in partnership with SARCs. Bernie explained that ISVA service provision should be an integrated part of the pathway for SARC patients. The next speaker was Carlene Firmin, from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner who talked about sexual violence in the context of gangs. Carlene explained the role of girls in gangs and urged the ISVAs to consider the possibility of gang-association of some of their clients. Specifically, Carlene said even if the ISVAs are not supporting clients from one of the 30 gang-affected areas (identified by the Home Office Ending Gang and Youth Violence Programme), ISVAs should consider the impact of gang-assocaition on all of their clients as gangs can be far reaching. The final speaker in the morning session was Dr Sam Warner, a Chartered and Consultant Clinical Psychologist. Sam’s presentation about working with children and adults with mental health problems injected a new level of energy and enthusiasm into the room in a very unexpected way which included retelling the story of Sleeping Beauty! Sam’s presentation about how people learn to cope, survive and recover after experiencing sexual violence was very informative and memorable.
The break from speakers and workshops over lunchtime gave the ISVAs an excellent opportunity to network with each other and meet up with existing and new colleagues. The room was buzzing with conversation and interesting discussions across the round tables in the Great Hall.
There were 3 workshops arranged for the ISVAs at the Event and they were organised in such a way to allow for each ISVA to attend all 3 workshops. Workshop 1 was hosted by Charlotte Triggs, Senior Policy Adviser from the Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS). This workshop was called ‘Understanding CPS Decision Making’ and explained the process that CPS Prosecutors undertake when deciding whether or not to prosecute in cases of rape. In the workshop ISVAs had an opportunity to apply the information in relation to different case scenarios to determine whether or not a charging is appropriate. Workshop 2 was titled ‘Are we really aware of the risks?’ and was hosted by Jeff Goodright, a serving police officer and training consultant. Jeff’s workshop introduced the digital communication world that we now live in and the potential risks that this carries, particularly in relation to those at risk of abuse. It really was an eye-opening workshop! Workshop 3 was hosted by Shelly Stoops, the interim Manager of SAFEPlace Merseyside, the SARC based in Liverpool. Shelly’s workshop, titled ‘Not an Occupational Hazard- Working with sex workers who experience sexual violence’ encapsulated her vast experience of working as an ISVA and providing support to sex workers who have been raped or sexually assaulted. A fascinating workshop that provided practical examples of how to support sex workers.
Professor Susan Lea closed the event by thanking all of the ISVAs for coming together to network and share knowledge. She reiterated the important role that the ISVA workforce has in providing vital support for victims of sexual violence and the need for them to coordinate their responses and organise themselves with one collective voice. Finally, LimeCulture’s Kim Doyle, ended the day by saying that she hoped that the Event had met the expectations of the ISVAs and that she hoped it had provided a valuable opportunity to learn from one another and meet other ISVAs.
LimeCulture would like to thank King’s College London for their support in organising and hosting this wonderful Event. We would also like to thank Geoff Reardon Photography for documenting the Event by capturing it with fantastic images.