Guest blog: What is the role of an ISVA? | Bolt Burdon Kemp Guest blog: What is the role of an ISVA? | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Guest blog: What is the role of an ISVA?

We invited Lyla Smith-Abass, an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor from Survivors UK to explain more about her role and the work she carries out. Over to Lyla:

An ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) is a person trained to take care of the needs of victims of rape and sexual assault.  It does not matter whether the incident was historical or recent.  The role is primarily there to help survivors understand how the criminal justice process works and what other support is available to them.

Personal Support

The nature of the support that an ISVA provides will vary from case to case and will depend on the needs of the individual and their particular circumstances.  A victim can access the support of an ISVA irrespective of whether they have reported to the police or not.  Contacting an ISVA does not mean a survivor is expected to report to the police.  The choice is always with the victim and whatever decision they make will be respected by the ISVA.

Reporting Sexual Abuse

If a victim however, does decide to go down the route of reporting to the police, they will be assisted to understand what happens next in terms of the reporting process, the court system and sometimes (depending on the acuteness of the incident) the process of forensic DNA retrieval.

An ISVA will listen to your needs, provide advice, guidance and support you to explore your options after any form of sexual abuse.  We understand that it takes a lot of courage to tell someone about being sexually abused, so we are here to support you through those stressful times.

Emotional Support

Living with a history of sexual violence can feel very challenging and considering reporting holds a number of challenges of its own.  Your ISVA will be empathetic and respectful of the emotional impact of the process, so as well as assisting you with the practical details, we can offer you emotional support.  We are not counsellors or medical professionals, so when necessary and appropriate we will signpost you to specialist agencies who can better serve your needs.

We advocate on your behalf, so you can access support from agencies such as:

  • Police
  • Health services
  • Housing/Homelessness
  • CAB -Benefits
  • Counselling
  • Social Care
  • Legal advice

Our main role is to:

  • Increase your safety (and the safety of any children or family members impacted by the abuse)
  • Inform you of the choices that are available to you
  • Respect your decisions
  • Keep you informed of developments in your case
  • Support you before, during and after any court case
  • Advocate on your behalf
  • Liaise with the police, courts, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and other public agencies
  • Create a safe environment to disclose sensitive and personal information
  • Support you in whatever choices you make
  • To build a professional rapport with all our clients

If you need further information or support contact

Bolt Burdon Kemp’s abuse team are very proud to sponsor Lyla’s role at Survivors UK.  We feel very strongly about making sure there is appropriate expert support for all survivors of sexual abuse.  The charity’s focus is on men who have suffered abuse, a demographic of society which is often unable to speak out freely due to societal pressures, which we hope will change with time, and we lend out support to this wonderful organisation to further this aim.

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