ISVAs and Advocacy
Many specialist agencies offer an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) service to victims/survivors of rape and sexual assault.
This vital role was commissioned by Baroness Stern through the Home Office Violent Crime Unit in 2005 and it enables survivors to receive incredibly valuable support during some of the most challenging times.
An ISVA is trained and qualified to provide specialist professional independent advice, support and advocacy to those who have experienced sexual assault/abuse.
Most areas across the country provide an ISVA service.
You will find a list of The Survivors Trust London ISVA services at the bottom of this page, or click here to view ISVA services in other areas of the UK.
Why is this type of support important?
An ISVA can help a victim/survivor navigate through various circumstances and options that may feel confusing and overwhelming to them.
An ISVA will offer support that helps the victim/survivor to make informed decisions about what they want to do. This can include whether they want to report the offence or not, or access other services such as counselling.
An ISVA can help explain what to expect if you choose to report to the police and provide clear information about each stage of the criminal justice process.
An ISVA can make referrals and/or signpost you to other services, such as sexual health, therapeutic interventions, substance misuse, as well as other services. An ISVA can attend health appointments or court hearings with you and act on your behalf if you wish.
Ultimately, with a client-centred and trauma-informed approach, their aim is to provide emotional support and information to ensure that you are aware of your rights and available options to help you stay safe and take whatever steps you decide towards your recovery.
When accessing ISVA support is there an obligation to report to the police?
Accessing ISVA support does not mean the victim/survivor is obliged to report to the police.
The decision to report is a choice the victim/survivor has control over.
There should never be any pressure for the victim/survivor to report.
However, an ISVA has a duty of care and certain professional responsibilities, meaning that in certain instances where there are particular risks identified, the ISVA may need to inform the appropriate authorities.
For example, a disclosure from or about a child at risk of harm would require details to be shared with local Children’s Social Services. Your ISVA should always discuss this with you.
Alongside ISVA services, The Survivors Trust London has many agencies that are able to offer specialist advocacy services for survivors and their families.
The role of an Advocacy Service is to give you support and to help you express your views and wishes, and help you stand up for your rights.
These services can include the following:
- Providing specialist advice service for non-abusing parents and carers who have specific queries and need longer-term support.
- Supporting survivors through the Criminal Justice Process (CJP) and other avenues of redress for the sexual abuse they have experienced as children, including civil law actions and complaints procedures.
- Support in reporting offences, for example, arranging initial meetings with the police.
Advocacy is a unique and dynamic service which is centred upon the needs of the survivor. Trained advocates will use easy to understand terms and help survivors understand any complex information, or decisions they are faced with.
Ultimately, any advocacy services offered by Survivors Trust London members are designed to help give the survivors a voice and support to help them have their needs met.