Over the past two years we’ve been working with the team at Merida to independently evaluate our counselling services for adults who have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse. In November 2019 we published the interim report, and now the final report is ready to share.
Counselling services are our busiest services. Though we offer more than 200 counselling sessions a week to adults, 7 days a week, survivors of abuse are having to wait months for their counselling to begin. This is part of a national crisis in the sector, but we want to reflect on what we can do locally as an organisation to reduce waiting times while still offering trauma-informed, survivor-centred support. You can read the report by clicking the link below.
Some of the findings:
Survivors face a confusing landscape when seeking support, as sexual assault referral centres, health services, mental health services and charities all offer different types of support with varying levels of accessibility.
In January 2019 the demand pressures on RSVP’s services had grown to such an extent that the waiting list for adult counselling was increasing rather than decreasing. This led to consultation on and implementation of service changes, including reducing the number of weeks of counselling from 24 to 16 (from April 2019).
In the research period, adult counselling at the city centre and outreach locations combined grew from 179 sessions per week to 227 per week ( this has since grown and with children’s counselling too we offer more than 300 sessions a week).
The expansion of outreach counselling has been successful in
extending the reach of the adult counselling service to people who were unable to access the city centre site.
Average waiting times reduced from 7 months to 5 months in January 2020, (though waiting times vary significantly depending on where the services is accessed).
The future of the service
Though huge progress has been made in reducing waiting times, the impact of Covid-19 will be felt for some time. Many people who were accessing the service in March put their sessions on hold because they were unable to, and did not want to, continue their sessions by phone during lockdown. When face to face services resume, social distancing will limit the numbers of clients who can be at the premises at one time and some outreach locations will open later than others.
We’re pleased that we’ll continue to work with Merida to evaluate the service, including the impact of Covid-19, counselling in a social distanced environment and new ways of accessing counselling (i.e. online platforms).
If you have any comments on the report, please contact Sarah Lafford email@example.com
On Friday 27th December we’ll be holding a survivor drop-in group session from 10.30-12.30. Join us for a cup of tea and a mince pie. All current and previous clients welcome. No need to book, just turn up to our city centre premises.
We know that Christmas can be a tough time. You’re not alone.
New Abuse Survivors Clinics (ASC’s) are being offered in Solihull and Chelmsley Wood through our ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy) service. This adds to the long running ASC already provided in Whittall Street where you can see our ISVA and a doctor (no doctor is available on the Solihull and Chelmsley Wood clinics.)
The ASC’s are places where sexual abuse survivors can go to seek support and are run in collaboration with Umbrella Sexual Health. Information about dates, times and locations of the ASC’s can be found here.
At the clinics our specialist advocates (ISVAs) can advise, signpost, refer and chaperone sexual abuse survivors for therapeutic and/or practical support. We know that accessing support can feel daunting and this service gives an easier, local access point for survivors from Solihull and Chelmsley Wood. The ASC’s are open to anybody who is a survivor of sexual violence, of any gender, and any age 13+. Our ISVAs are there for you if you need information around access to health care, reporting to the police, and any other issue that directly relates to the abuse experienced. ISVAs will support you to feel informed so you can make your own independent decisions.
CEO Lisa Thompson, and Head of ISVA Services Yvonne Langham were on BBC Radio WM about the new clinics. They talk about the specialist support needed when survivors of sexual abuse don’t know where to turn and are worried about starting police investigations and the court process. Listen here.
85% of sexual abuse cases don’t get reported, however survivors still need holistic support even when taking legal action is not the way forward. There has been recently been an increase in people coming forward needing help with dealing with non-recent abuse, but still living with the effects many years later. If you’re a survivor, help is out there. If you’re local to Solihull and Chelmsley Wood, the new clinics are on your door step; ready to listen to you, believe you, and support you.
Traditionally, RSVP has closed over the Christmas and New Year period. We know that this can be a really tough time of year for many, and so this year we are offering a number of services to survivors of abuse in Birmingham and Solihull.
ISVA/advocacy crisis support
The ISVA team can offer telephone or email support on the following days:
Wed 20th Dec 9am-5pm / Thurs 21st Dec 9am – 5pm / Fri 22nd Dec 9am – 5pm
Fri 23rd Dec – Weds 27th Dec -ISVA service closed
Thurs 28th Dec 9am – 3.30pm / Fri 29th Dec 9am-5pm
Sat 30th Dec – Mon 1st Jan – ISVA service closed
Tues 2nd Jan 9am – 5pm
Drop in social groups
We are hosting two drop in social groups at our city centre premises over the festive period, if you are currently being supported by us or have in the past, join us for a cup of tea and a chat.
Thurs 21st Dec 10am – 1pm mixed gender
Fri 29th Dec 10am – 1pm women only
Call the office number on 0121 643 0301 if you need more information.
Our helpline number is 0121 643 4136.
The helpline hours are a little different over the Christmas period, but there is lots of support available, see the opening times here. If you call when the helpline is shut, leave a message with your number and someone will ring you back when it is next open.
Please note – all our services are closed Sat 23rd Dec – Tues 26th Dec and Sat 30th Dec – Mon 1st Jan 2018. If you are in need of support during these days you can contact Rape Crisis on freephone 0802 9999 12-2pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year.
All our services reopen as usual from 9am on Weds 3rd Jan 2018.
Happy new year everyone.
Expert sexual abuse lawyers from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors http://www.irwinmitchell.com/personal/personal-injury-compensation/abuse-and-criminal-injury-claims/physical-and-sexual-abuse-claims have teamed up with RSVP to provide free legal advice for survivors we have supported in the past and those currently using our services too. The clinic has now been running for a year and during this time legal support and advice has been provided to a number of survivors.
The aim of the clinics is to offer free legal advice to survivors across a broad range of legal topics, including family law matters, Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority claims and civil claims. Civil claims could be made against an individual who has committed abuse, an organisation responsible for that person (usually an employer) or an organisation that should have taken steps to prevent abuse, but failed – such as social services.
Raman Dhillon (pictured above) provides free advice alongside emotional and practical support from Yvonne Langham, Head of ISVA Services and our advocacy team.
The legal clinic takes place on the last Friday of every month and it proves to be extremely useful to those who require legal advice, but may not be able to afford it or know where to access this information.
If for any reason you are unable to attend the legal clinic on the last Friday of the month please let Yvonne know on 0121 643 0301 option 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Raman will look into accommodating your enquiry at a more convenient time for you.
The next legal clinic will be on Friday 30 June 2017 between 11:00am and 1:00pm at RSVP offices in central Birmingham. We look forward to seeing you there, no appointment is necessary, just drop in!
Hi, my name is Yvonne Langham. I am the Head of the Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) Services at the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP).
I am delighted to announce that RSVP are hosting free Legal Clinics with lawyers Scott and Neerali from the very well known and respected, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.
Irwin Mitchell have kindly offered to have a lawyer available for two hours a month to offer free, legal advice to any RSVP client who would benefit from this service. The Legal Clinics will be held on the last Friday of each month between 11am and 1pm at RSVP. Anyone wishing to attend can just turn up and give their name at reception, stating they are here for the Legal Clinic. No other information will be required at the reception area and a private room will be allocated for the meeting. An Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) will be on hand to offer support, however it is entirely up to the individual if they wish the ISVA to be in the meeting, or if they would sooner speak one on one with the lawyer.
I am so pleased that the first Legal Clinic was such a great success. I look forward to seeing this new service accessed by any of RSVP clients who would benefit from good quality, free legal advice from a trusted and well established firm of Solicitors. I believe the ISVA service, which can be offered hand in hand with the Legal Clinic, will prove to be extremely useful in offering emotional and practical support to anyone who uses this exciting new service.
Free Legal Clinics for sexual violence survivors takes place at RSVP, Grosvenor House, 14 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5RS on the last Friday of each month 11am-1pm. The next clinic will be Friday 29th July.
I became an ISVA to help survivors to have their say, and get the help and support to overcome the impact of sexual abuse, and not face prejudice or mistreatment. As a member of the LGBT community myself and as a professional, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of the impact and trauma of any sexual abuse on LGBT people. I am passionate about developing and providing this much needed service.
WHAT IS AN LGBT ISVA?
If you are lesbian, gay, bi, trans* and have ever experienced rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse at any point in your life the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) now can offer you our specialist LGBT ISVA services within the Birmingham LGBT community. (*Including but not exclusive list- non binary, non cis, gender queer, MSM, androgynous, intersex, pansexual…)
An ISVA will offer a caring and professional service providing practical advice and emotional support to those who have been directly impacted by rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse. The abuse could be recent, in the past or ongoing.
Rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are experienced by a significant percentage of the population and are prevalent in the LGBT community too. Sexual abuse of any nature is a very hidden problem and can be an extremely difficult issue to talk about. The LGBT community often are overlooked or misunderstood and can face prejudice and extra fears around speaking to professionals and organisations when seeking help and support. Rape and abuse against LGBT people can occur in relationships, they can occur as homophobic hate-crimes, childhood sexual abuse and as sexual harassment. Research suggests that the LGBT community experiences disproportionate level of sexual violence.
Support is available; we are here to offer you an advocacy service delivered with compassion, professionalism and humanity. We want to make a difference to you and help overcome the barriers that prevent sexual abuse survivors who identify as LGBT from getting the help and support they need.
Our service is free and is inclusive of all sexuality and gender identities. Everyone is treated fairly, equally and with value and respect. We embrace diversity, promoting equality and human rights for all. We are passionate about helping survivors to thrive and are a user lead service. We are here for you, and so will tailor the support to your individual needs. We understand you may feel nervous getting in touch and it takes a lot of courage to take that step. We will support you every step of the way.
How can we help?
• Talking you through your options
• Ensuring you can access the services and support you need
• Offering emotional and practical support
• Enabling you to report to the police if you decide to
* Exploring other ways you can pass on information about the trauma you have experienced (e.g. anonymously through the Sexual Assault Referral Centre – SARC)
• Ensuring your wellbeing, by chaperoning you on health appointments, including sexual health screenings
What is sexual violence?
The term sexual violence is used as a broad term for all forms of rape and sexual abuse. Rape and sexual abuse might involve physical violence, coercion, threats and control.
Often rape and sexual abuse is committed by people you know, such as partners, friends, family, acquaintances, and people in positions of trust. You may feel love for the person who has abused/is abusing you. You may be befriended and offered things in return for sexual acts, you could have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol to such an extent you couldn’t consent. You may feel coerced or pressured into doing sexual things you don’t want to. You may be pressured/ forced into sexual acts with other people.
Abusers can seem very charming and well liked, they will gain your trust and those around you. You may think people won’t believe you, we will. You may be terrified and living in fear, we can help.
If you are being forced, pressured or coerced into sexual activities, you can contact us. You don’t have to suffer in silence or cope alone – we’re here for you.
To contact the LGBT ISVA service speak to Bev via:
Tel: 0121 643 0301 option 2
Mob: 07535 172 052
We recently appointed a number of new ISVAs to grow our advocacy service, here is a guest blog post from one of our news ISVAs, Natalie Harris about our work at the Abuse Survivors Clinic.
Hi, my name is Natalie and I am a ‘newbie’ ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advocate) here at RSVP. Having previously worked in the field of addiction, supporting and empowering people is what I enjoy most, which reinforces that my day to day role is more than just a job.
The role of ISVA is so broad and varied that it is not the easiest to define. In a nutshell, we support and advocate for clients/service users that are survivors of sexual violence. This entails support throughout the legal process, identifying, signposting and/or supporting practically with unmet needs and providing emotional support.
I see my role as walking by the side of the client and supporting with each step they take on their journey.
In order to continue to strive towards the delivery of a seamless service for our clients, we have recently embarked upon a fresh working partnership with Umbrella sexual health services. One of the latest projects is the ASC (Abuse Survivors Clinic) clinic. This clinic operates 2-3 times per month on a Wednesday at Whittall Street Clinic, Whittall Street, Birmingham, B4 6DH and is available for survivors of abuse, providing specialised, sensitive support around sexual health screenings. In addition, clients have the opportunity to explore support options available with an ISVA from RSVP who will be present at every ASC.
The schedule for this clinic is as follows:
8th June 2016
22nd June 2016
6th July 2016
20th July 2016
3rd August 2016
17th August 2016
31st August 2016
14th September 2016
28th September 2016
12th October 2016
26th October 2016
9th November 2016
23rd November 2016
7th December 2016
To access the clinic please contact: 0121 237 5700
Expert sexual abuse lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have teamed up with us to provide free legal advice for the people we have supported in the past and those who currently use our services.
The aim of the clinics, which will be held at Grosvenor House, Birmingham, on the last Friday of each month, is to offer free legal advice to survivors using RSVP’s services to provide a broad range of legal topics, including civil claims.
We were the Charity of the Year for Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office in 2015 and the firm has worked closely with us in its efforts to support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.
Expert sexual abuse lawyer Scott Tolliss, who is also a Trustee of RSVP, will be providing free advice, alongside Yvonne Langham, our Head of Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) Services and her advocacy team.
“Through our work with survivors of abuse in the West Midlands we understand just how important RSVP is to those affected by these issues and we have worked very closely with the charity in the past to raise funds to allow it to continue providing the services it does.
“We are delighted to now be able to provide free legal advice to those who use the service currently and anyone who used it in the past. We hope to be able to provide advice across a wide range of issues affecting survivors of sexual assault and abuse, to ensure they can access the help they require.” Scott Tolliss, Other Legal Expert at Irwin Mitchell.
Lisa Thompson, RSVP’s CEO, said: “We are constantly working to improve the services we can offer to women and men affected by sexual violence, rape and abuse and we believe these free legal clinics will once again increase the level of help and support we can provide.
“The clinics for our clients will take place on the last Friday of every month and we hope it will prove to be extremely useful to those who require legal advice, but may not be able to afford it.”
As part of our ongoing feasibility study into outreach services, which we ‘re hoping will result in more RSVP services being made available in local outreach posts, we’re looking for client feedback on our services.
If you have accessed RSVP counselling via Dove Medical Centre, Castle Vale Childrens Centre, SIAS (Solihull Integrated Addiction Services) or Solihull and Chelmsley Wood Citizens Advice Bureaus we’d really appreciate it if you can complete this online survey.
All responses are anonymous. Your feedback will help us to shape and grow services in the future.