County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen has improved and extended the support for victims of sexual violence with the award of a three-year contract, worth more than £650,000, for the provision of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs).
The award to Darlington & Co. Durham Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre (RSACC) follows a competitive tendering process and will ensure a consistent and sustainable service over the next three years for survivors across the force area. RSACC will also provide specialist support to male survivors of sexual abuse and various community groups including LGBTQ+, older people and people with learning disabilities.
The service will be available for victims and survivors who are considering making a report to the Police or who have already reported their experience to the Police.
ISVAs are specially trained advocates who provide crucial support throughout the survivor’s journey through the criminal justice process including reporting the incident to Police through to supporting clients at court.
They work with individuals who have experienced rape and sexual assault and provide independentinformation about the options available to them including pre-trial therapy and sexual violence counselling and help from bespoke health services.
Among an extensive list of duties, ISVAs keep survivors informed of case developments, liaise with the Police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and other public agencies, assist with court arrangements including special measures and witness service support and act as an advocate on behalf of the survivor.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice announced that it was providing additional funding in support of those affected by sexual violence. It has committed funding to secure 1,000 extra ISVA and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) by 2025 nationally. Joy Allen has confirmed that she will continue to work with partners to review capacity, support bids for further funding and identify further opportunities for development going forward.
The PCC has pledged to protect vulnerable people, setting out robust action in her Police and Crime Plan to improve the response to victims of crime over the next three years.
Her goals include the delivery of seamless, high-quality support for victims to help them recover from their experiences and to ensure victims feel empowered and confident in reporting their experiences to the Police.
Commenting on the new service, Commissioner Allen said: “I’m determined to provide the very best care and support to all victims of sexual violence from the earliest opportunity. It’s vital that anyone affected in any way by sexual violence can access top quality support throughout the criminal justice process.
“We ask people to come forward to report their experiences, but I understand that to do that they need to be confident that the help they need to support this process will be available to them.
“This service will ensure that experienced and professional support workers will provide personalised help to assist their recovery and reduce the impact of trauma to improve their mental health for as long as they need it.”
Jamie Allinson, RSACC ISVA Manager, added: “We are delighted to have been successful in gaining the three-year ISVA contract for Darlington and Co. Durham. The experience and skills of the team have already been supporting sexual violence survivors for five years and this support is needed more than ever.
“The court process for survivors is never easy, but it provides particular challenges for survivors which - with our support - can help them to better understand and navigate the process to hopefully reach the outcomes they seek.”
For sexual violence survivors who need support, RSACC runs an Emotional Support Line on Tuesdays - 10am-1pm and 6.30pm to 9pm and Thursdays 10am-1pm. Call 0300 2225730.
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