Independent Sexual Violence Advisory Service
What is an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)?
An ISVA is an independent worker who can provide practical and emotional support to survivors, aged 5 or over, who have experienced any form of rape or sexual abuse at any time in their life.
ISVAs are specially trained to explore any options that may be available to you and to provide you with information to enable you to make choices. The ISVA offers free, non-judgemental support to suit your needs. An ISVA will work with you to decide what kind of support you may require, they will not pressure you into making decisions.
Sometimes it can be difficult to talk to your family, partner or friends about what has happened to you, or you may not have told anyone at all. Your ISVA can provide the opportunity to talk in a safe and confidential environment.
What ISVA services are there?
At WMRSASC, there are three ISVA services available.
Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) who work with individuals aged 18 and over who have experienced any form of rape or sexual abuse at any time in their lives.
Children & Young People’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ChISVAs) who work with children and young people aged 5 to 17 years. The ChISVA service also works with individuals aged 18 to 25 years who have additional needs. Please click here for more information.
Family Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (FISVAs) who work with supporters of survivors, most commonly parents, partners and family members. The FISVA role enables the youngest survivors of sexual violence, those aged 5 and under, to receive support through the FISVA engagement with their parent or carer. Please click here for more information.
How can the ISVA help?
The ISVA can:
- Offer free, confidential support by phone or in person.
- Provide information about any options that may be available to you and support you to make informed decisions.
- Help you decide if you wish to report to the police and give you information about the legal process and your rights.
- Complete risk assessments and individual support and safety plans.
- Provide information and support you in accessing services that you feel you would benefit from. These may include counselling, drug and alcohol services, sexual health and housing options.
Reporting to the Police
Some people decide to report the matter to the police, some do not want to report to the police, and some are unsure and may be considering this option. This is a personal choice you will make. The ISVA will support you regardless of whether you are reporting the matter to the police or not.
If you do choose to contact the police, the ISVA will be able to:
- Attend any appointments you may have with police staff.
- Liaise with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to keep you up to date with the case.
- Explain procedures.
- Support you in viewing the courtroom before the trial, should you wish to.
- Attend court with you.
- Support you in applying for protection measures, such as restraining orders.
- Support you after the trial – whatever the outcome.
If you are not ready to speak to the police the ISVA can help you report the incident anonymously, safe in the knowledge that your identity will not be revealed.
Values From Which the ISVA Works
- To believe
- To be non-judgemental
- To recognise survival strategies
- To enable survivors of sexual violence to retain control
- To recognise it is an individual’s decision whether they report to the police
- To empower and enable survivors of sexual violence
- To validate feelings whatever they are
- To dispel the myths around rape and sexual abuse
- To treat all survivors of sexual violence as individuals
- To provide you with a service that is non-oppressive
Seeking Help and Making Contact
The ISVA service accepts both self-referrals and referrals from other agencies or representatives if this makes it easier for you to access our services. Other agencies must have prior consent from you as their client before making the referral to the ISVA service.
We recognise how hard it is for you to make that call and we will do all we can to support you.
An initial assessment will be offered either by telephone or face to face. The purpose of this is to discuss how this service can help you. The assessment visit will take no longer than an hour and you can take a break at any time. Anything discussed will be in the strictest confidence and no information will be shared with other agencies without your consent unless it involves matters of child protection, or you or other people are at risk of serious harm.
The ISVA service has both male and female workers, if you have a preference this can be discussed during your Initial Assessment.
The ISVAs are based at West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre offices. For further information, to make a referral, an appointment or an informal chat please contact one of our Independent Sexual Advisors through the office: 01905 611655 (Worcestershire) / 01432 266551 (Herefordshire) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively please download and complete a referral form using the link below and post it to WMRSASC, PO Box 240, WR1 2LF or email it to us: email@example.com
If you need any other support please call the WMRSASC helpline on 01905 724514 (Worcestershire) or 01432 344777 (Herefordshire).
Legal advice through Rights of Women
Rights of Women advises, educates and empowers women by providing women with free, confidential legal advice by specialist women solicitors and barristers, whilst enabling women to understand and benefit from their legal rights through accessible publications and training.
Rights of Women provides free and confidential advice in relation to the following areas of law.
- Criminal law, including: sexual offences; domestic violence, stalking and harassment; reporting offences to the police and the criminal justice system; the rights of victims, witnesses and defendants; and criminal injuries compensation. For free legal advice on criminal law for women in England and Wales call 020 7251 8887. The helpline is open Tuesday 11am-1pm.
- Family law, including: domestic violence and abuse; divorce and finances on relationship breakdown; issues relating to children; and, lesbian parenting and civil partnerships. For free legal advice on family law for women in England and Wales call 020 7251 6577. The helpline is open Tuesday 7pm – 9pm, Wednesday 7pm – 9pm, Thursday 7pm – 9pm, Friday 12pm – 2pm.
- Immigration and asylum law, including: the rights of European nationals and their family members; claiming asylum in the UK; trafficking; immigration law, including in relation to domestic violence and family life; and financial support, including for women with no recourse to public funds. For free legal advice on immigration and asylum law call 020 7490 7689. The helpline is open Monday 12pm – 3pm, Thursday 10am – 1pm.
To find out more about their advice lines and legal information for women visit www.rightsofwomen.org.uk or call 020 7251 6575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (advice cannot be given by email so please contact the appropriate telephone advice line – see above – if that is what you are looking for).
Rights of Women have published a handbook called From Report to Court which provides information and support to people who have experienced sexual violence, as well as to their families, friends and the organisations that support them. It also sets out the relevant law and the obligations the different agencies in the criminal justice system have towards survivors of sexual violence. You can download a copy of From Report to Court here.
Visual Evidence for Victims (VEV)
If you are a victim of violent crime, photographs can be very useful as evidence. If you are not ready to report to the police the ISVA is trained to record photographic evidence of physical injuries and damage to property caused by incidents such as sexual or domestic abuse, should you wish to. This evidence is then stored securely for up to six years or when you choose to report the crime. We do not collect forensic evidence – this can only be done by the police or another approved agency using early evidence kits.
VEV is a free, confidential service for victims of violent crime or criminal damage over the age of 18.
More information is available on the Victim Support website. Please click here to access the site.