Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre offers practical information and advocacy support for survivors of sexual violence through its Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) service. The adult ISVA service usually works with people aged 19 and over and the Children and Young People (ChISVA) service usually supports survivors aged 18 and under.
ISVAs are specialist support workers whose job is to provide assistance to individuals who have been the victims of sexual offences. The role was introduced in 2006 as part of a Home Office-led initiative to improve outcomes for victims of these crimes.
ISVAs offer practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, recently or in the past, and help you to access other available support services to address both short- and long-term needs. They can support you through the criminal justice system, providing information on what happens when you report to the police. You do not have to report to the police to get support from an ISVA. They can help those who are not reporting to access support for their emotional needs as well as help with safety planning.
They will help you understand how the criminal justice process works, such as what will happen if you report to the police, or the importance and process of forensic DNA retrieval.
You can refer yourself – ‘self-referral’ – to our advocacy service by completing our online form:
Alternatively, you can ask a professional, The Elms SARC for example, to refer you – ‘professional referral’ – to our counselling service. They will need to complete this form:
All referrals go through our partnership – Cambridge & Peterborough Rape Crisis Partnership.
An ISVA usually works with adult survivors, so anyone aged 19 and over. A ChISVA usually works with anyone aged 18 and under, as well as their families if appropriate. Everyone in the Ch/ISVA team has the ability to work with anyone, of any age.
When you are assigned to an ISVA, she will give you her contact number and email address, so you can keep in touch by text, phone and email, whichever you prefer. Your ISVA will also arrange face-to-face meetings at safe times and locations that are convenient for you.
It varies according to your needs. ISVAs can help with:
- providing impartial information and advice to those considering reporting sexual offences
- understanding the criminal justice process and supporting people from report to court as well as in the months following a trial
- liaising with the police, if you have reported the crime
- providing emotional support
- supporting your welfare and safety through a process of risk assessment and safety planning
- advocating on your behalf to enable you to exert some influence on processes that concern you
- providing practical help with issues such as housing and benefits
- putting you in touch with other services that may benefit you, such as specialist counselling or domestic violence support
- referring to agencies who can help you with specialist needs, such as counselling, sexual health, mental health, substance misuse and housing
- assisting you to apply for criminal injuries compensation
You can refer yourself for support from the ISVA service by going to the Cambridge & Peterborough Rape Crisis Partnership website and filling in the online referral form there. You will also be given the option to access the ISVA service if you report a sexual offence to the police or attend a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for a forensic medical examination.
Our administrator will call you for a chat to find our more about your current situation, what types of support you would find most useful and what areas you most want help with. This usually takes around 20-30 minutes. If the person being referred is under the age of 16, the administrator will usually also speak to their parent or legal guardian.
When the service is especially busy, it can take a little longer to be seen by an ISVA. If this is the case when you are referred to us, our administrator will keep in contact with you while you are waiting, so that you can speak to someone about any changes in your circumstances or concerns that you may have.
You should only be referred to the service with your consent, and ISVAs will only work with you if you want them to. If you don’t feel ready to see an ISVA or if you feel that you don’t need the support at the moment, you can ask for your case to be closed any time. If you change your mind in the future, we welcome people getting back in touch any time.
The ISVA service is confidential and entirely independent from other agencies. The only situation that may require an ISVA to share any of your information is where a child or vulnerable person may be at risk of harm. ISVAs do not share information with the police, although sometimes the police or CPS may request a copy of ISVA records as part of their investigation. These will not be shared without your consent and you can discuss any concerns you have about confidentiality with your ISVA at your first meeting. Our confidentiality policy is also available for download if you want further information.
Our ISVAs work office hours, so they are not able to meet you in the evening or at the weekend. They can travel to meet you at a safe and convenient location and see you during the day at a time when it is suitable for you.