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  1. Meet Oscar

    We’re delighted to welcome Oscar to our ISVA team, we all hope you enjoy being part of the RSVP team.

    Identity has always been important to me. But the question of ‘who am I?’ has not always been one I’ve found easy to answer. This question consumed me when I was growing up. Sleepless nights and endless days staring into space and asking myself the question over and over. Labels were forced upon me before I started to speak for myself. ‘Tomboy’, ‘gifted’, ‘naughty’, ‘different’, ‘girl’. These labels always felt wrong to me. I wasn’t naughty, I just couldn’t focus like everyone else. I wasn’t ‘different’, but I was unique. I didn’t think I was a girl, so who was I? Who will I be when I grow up? Will I be comfortable in my own skin? Will I find a community of people who understand me? Will I be proud?

    Throughout my teenage years, I tried on a lot of identities. My styles and interests constantly evolved and changed. I played semi-professional football, toured around playing in jazz bands and worked in the House of Commons. I tried a Goth phase for a couple of weeks, but I had blonde hair and smiled too much, so that style didn’t last too long. I experienced homelessness, I formed strong friendships and threw myself into schoolwork; a source of stability in my life.

    The question of who I am continued to weigh on my mind, crushing me. All my friends began forming relationships, but questions about my sexuality made me feel isolated, alone. I started talking to people I could trust about how I was feeling and learnt that a big part of my identity was openness. My chosen family became a significant part of who I was, and who I still am. University was a very important and exciting time for me. It allowed me space to grow, meet a diverse range of people and try new experiences. I studied History and Politics and got heavily involved in student politics and social groups. In 2014, I was elected as LGBT+ Liberation Officer of my university and had the chance to support others in a way I was supported when I needed it the most. I also became involved in activism and advocacy support, particularly surrounding LGBT+ Liberation, Sex Worker Rights, and preventing homelessness.

    For a long time, I became consumed with the label ‘victim’. I was a victim of sexual assaults, a victim of hate crimes, a victim of abuse. This became my identity and dictated how I acted. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, alone. I felt like no-one understood me or saw my struggles. It took time, patience and support for me to decide that I wanted to reject this identity of ‘victim’. A big part of my identity now is that I am a survivor, and what I have been through has made me stronger, more compassionate and surer of who I am and who I am not.

    After I completed my Undergraduate Degree, I began a PhD in Political Science, looking at the overlap of disability and trans studies, entitled: The Other Body: A Trans and Disability Studies Critique of Privacy, Privilege and Power. I’ve worked as a Lecturer and as a Programme Facilitator at a charity which saw me travelling around the country and spending many nights in hotel rooms, eating takeaways. I would go into schools and help young people discover what social issues they were passionate about (such as climate change or supporting elderly communities) and helped them form plans of how they would make a difference in the world. These experiences helped shape my identity and learn more about who I am. I became a strong public speaker and I learnt about coping mechanisms for my anxiety and depression. I learnt about my disabilities and ways I could speak out about them and ask for support and I learnt how to better support people. I also learnt that you can get sick of takeaways and delicious greasy food if you eat too much of it (who knew??).

    I love learning and reading. As I began forming a picture of my identity, I wanted to find stories like mine. I wanted to see an existence like mine, to feel validated and affirmed. But I struggled to find any. I couldn’t find stories about disabled young people or films about LGBT+ people (especially not stories of people who are proud and happy). No TV shows of survivors thriving. No diversity or celebration of difference. I realised I had to become the representation I wanted to see. I didn’t know entirely what story I wanted to tell, but I knew that I wanted to speak. I wanted to support people and make them feel seen; to help people understand that their stories, their experiences, their feelings are always important. This is why I continue to speak out. To fight for the rights of myself and others. To continue understanding, unlearning, remembering, forgetting, processing, thinking, feeling and listening. To be someone people can talk to. And I want to continue listening to myself. I speak out about my experiences in solidarity. To process. In the hope others can relate and feel less alone. These are some of the core values I want my identity to be about, and what I have strived to do in the past, and what I hope I continue to do in the future at RSVP.

    I joined RSVP in October 2020 as an Adult Independent Sexual Violence Advocate. My role involves assisting anyone who has experienced sexual abuse or violence, helping them to understand their options, ensuring they can access the services and support they need, including reporting if this is something they wish to do, and offering emotional and practical support. Since joining RSVP, I feel like my chosen family has grown. Everyone is so supportive, welcoming and accepting, and it has felt powerful and affirming to openly be my authentic self and stay true to my identity.

    So, who am I? The answer to this question is forever evolving and growing. I am my experiences, my journey and my story. I am Oscar. I am a trans, non-binary man. I am disabled, queer, and flamboyant. I love otters and bird-watching. My most listened to music genre on Spotify is ‘Show Tunes’. I tell terrible jokes. I am serious when I need to be, but don’t take life too seriously. I’m positive and energetic. I am flawed. I am kind. I am privileged. I am accepting of everyone. I’m passionate about my beliefs, my hobbies and about helping people. I’m also passionate about dogs. Dogs are great. I’m an activist. I am a survivor and I am strong. I am who I was in my past and who I will be in my future.  Most of all, I am proud.

    Posted 21 December 2020
  2. Meet Nicola – RSVP’s newest LGBT Independent Sexual Violence Advocate

    Hi, I’m Nicola and I’m the newest edition to the LGBT ISVA team at RSVP. I joined at the beginning of September and feel very privileged to be a part of this family. I started at RSVP as a volunteer counsellor originally and I will always say my role as a LGBT Independent Sexual Violence Advocate was fate.

    As I was travelling in for my counselling role, I thought about trying to organise an LGBT coffee morning group and when I arrived, I saw the ISVA role advertised and applied immediately.

    Being a part of the LGBT community myself, it was really important to me to be able to offer support in this specialist area. If you identify as being a part of the LGBT+ community and have ever experienced rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse at ANY point in your life, I am here to help. Sexual violence can affect anyone regardless of their gender identity or what type of relationship they’re in.

    Quoted from the Love is a Rainbow website “Unfortunately; our silence on these matters has meant that criminals and deviants are allowed to continue with their nefarious misdeeds. Nobody is going to challenge the social injustice that we face, unless we ourselves start taking control of the steering wheel. The suffering that we face as a result of sexual violence is individualized and therefore does not inspire the requisite strategic response that has traditionally been used to combat societal problems such as armed robbery.

    The statistics are certainly alarming enough: between 40% and 60% of all women within the LGBT+ community are bound to face at least once incident of physical violence, rape and stalking by an intimate partner. Up to 37% of men within this community will experience similar aggression. The statistics of successful prosecutions are hidden far away from public view. Sometimes it appears that nobody is worried if LGBT+ people become victims of crime. The implicit message is that the community is deserving of such treatment.

    It is also important to emphasize the fact that the LGBT+ community is just like any other. There are misfits and troublemakers. Therefore; it is expected that a few bad eggs will make the cut. The real dilemma is how we can deal with this threat of violence. The fact that the victims are largely silent also reduces the possibilities of challenging those who are trampling on our rights. Suffering in silence has never won us any rights. Indeed, many of the things that we have achieved as a community are directly linked to a certain level of militancy and persistent advocacy.”

    So, how can I support you?

    *Ensure your views, opinions, wishes and needs are understood, respected, listened to and met
    *Inform and support you about your options, concentrating on what you need and want
    *Ensure you understand and receive your legal rights and entitlements if you report to the police
    *Inform you of other options you might have
    *Offer compassionate support to people who are supporting you – your partner, friends and family
    *Arranging appointments, referring you, or possibly going with you, to other support services, such as counselling, domestic abuse and refuge support, drug/alcohol services and health appointments
    *Arranging appointments and referring you to sexual health services via Umbrella Sexual Health
    *Arrange for, and support you to attend SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) if you have been recently assaulted, if police are involved or not, for the possible collection of forensic evidence


    I am here to provide practical and emotional support and help you express your views and wishes. Make sure your voice is heard and you are aware of services you have access to.

    If you are thinking about reporting to the police, I will offer you support throughout the criminal proceedings, which I understand may feel scary but I am here to support you. You call the ISVA office on 0121 643 0301 option 2 or email on isva@rsvporg.co.uk

    You are valued and you don’t have to feel you are on your own.

    Posted 16 October 2019
  3. Meet Maddison, RSVP’s newest children and young people’s ISVA

    Hi, I’m Maddison. I am an ISVA for children and young people and the newest member of the team here at RSVP. I joined the ISVA team at the beginning of May, and would love to take the opportunity to introduce myself and tell you some of the things I have been up to in my first month. Things may (will definitely) get a little cheesy, but bear with me…

    I can honestly say that after day one, I felt like a part of the team. Everyone here has been so incredibly welcoming and supportive. No amount of questions is too many, and everyone has made me feel included and accepted me for who I am. In fact, being myself has not only been accepted, it has been encouraged. It is clear that individuality is celebrated at RSVP, and I have found that to be refreshing, beautiful and liberating. Walking into RSVP means walking into a safe space full of big-hearted supporters that truly care. So for me, I feel quite at home, as I too have so much passion for helping others and advocating for survivors.

    Having worked in schools following university, I knew that I loved working with and helping children and young people. However, I also knew that what I truly wanted to do was help young survivors of sexual violence and help make a difference. As a survivor myself, I recognised the invaluable support of having an ISVA. I learnt that whilst no one can take the pain away, someone could help guide you through what can feel like an all-consuming darkness. They can help you see that you are not alone and that the light and colour will return. So, I took the plunge. I decided to go for it and begin my ISVA training. I always aspired to work for RSVP but I dared to hope that could become my reality. Their beliefs and ethos matched my own, and I truly respected all their hard work and commitment. The spirit of this charity shines through everything they do; you can feel it as soon as you walk through the door.  

    It is safe to say then, I was fairly ecstatic to be starting here. From my first day, with my excitement (and nerves!) in tow, I have not been disappointed. The job has somehow exceeded my expectations: I find myself utilising my passion and experience so much from sessions with clients, observing at court and learning from, and being supported by, the lovely ISVA team. I also love how being an ISVA means offering holistic support. It means giving survivors emotional and practical support in many ways: from report and possible court proceedings, to supporting at intimate medical appointments, and from liaising with schools and colleges on their behalf, to enabling clients to access therapy. ISVAs support survivors throughout their journey whilst allowing them to be in control, feel empowered and know that they are truly believed.

    It may sound strange to some that I enjoy my job, but I will take my recent experience at court to offer you an example of my love for this work. I was sitting in the public gallery as a survivor took the stand. In my eyes, she was taking a stand. A stand against what happened to her and a stand against sexual violence. I found myself wanting to send her some sort of telepathic message to say “I am here with you. You are not alone. You do not stand alone”. So, in a strange summary, that is how I feel and that is my message to all survivors. Whilst each person’s experience is different, whatever your position and however it is you feel, you are not alone and you are worthy.

    Lady Gaga, in a live performance of ‘Til it happens to you’, had survivors walk onto the stage towards the end and stand hand in hand with her. They raised their arms together and the crowd stood to join them. I found it to be one of those incredibly powerful and goose-bumpy moments. So when you feel scared, alone, or nothing at all, perhaps picture survivors and believers all standing behind you or hand in hand, and know that you may feel lonely, but you are never alone.

    Posted 24 June 2019
  4. Katrina Our Children’s Advocate

    My name is Katrina the newest Children‘s ISVA at RSVP, I have been in post since mid September.  Whilst here I have had the opportunity to meet a friendly, skilled and diverse team and attend some useful training as RSVP is committed to developing its team.  I’ve found RSVP to be bold, passionate and determined to reach out to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse and sexual violence.

     

    I have worked with children and young people for a number of years, including those affected by abuse, I’m passionate about making a difference and think that alongside advocacy counselling and therapy for children is an important element to the healing process.

     

    In being an advocate for children and young people I provide flexible and consistent support which listens to, advocates for and encourages each young person to share their feelings and thoughts. I am a central point of contact for a child and ensure that other professionals, carers and organisations work in partnership and harmony for the child providing a child centred service. Children have a voice and it’s important that all parties ensure they are heard. In my experiences I have found that each young person expresses themselves in different forms which are unique to them, and we should embrace these differences and celebrate them.

     

    Thrive after abuse

    The ISVA team I belong to are fantastic and have been very supportive and helpful whilst I have been settling in to my new role. RSVP is a great organisation which enables people who have experienced sexual trauma to have their needs understood and met, have hope and confidence after sexual abuse, and look at the options available to them. We support people through criminal justice and court processes, civil action and in seeking counselling and other support.  RSVP provides a confidential, warm and safe place, where people are empowered with the right information and resources available to them. This is a journey that supports sexually traumatised people to gain control again and we take bold action to support this process.

     

    My role consists of:

    1. Supporting children and young people to be fully informed about police and court processes,

    2. Gaining information about what’s going on with the police investigation,

    3. Going with the child on visits to the court prior to a trial,

    4. Supporting children and young people to access health and other support, by arranging appointments and often going with them too. I assist them to gain health, STI testing, counselling and other support,

    5. Liaising with schools and colleges to ensure that the needs of the child and young person are fully understood, identified and addressed so they can continue to access and achieve through education.

    Ultimately my role supports any child or young person under 18 years of age who has an advocacy need which directly relates to the sexual abuse and trauma they have experienced.

     

    I’m determined to provide support to children which enables them to:

    1. Safely share how much they want to about what‘s happened

    2. Live a hopeful, confident future where they are not defined by their past experiences.

     

    If you’d like more information about our children’s and young people’s advocacy service read more here, or contact me on 0121 643 0301 option 2 or: isva@rsvporg.co.uk

    Posted 24 December 2017
  5. Outstanding!

    On Thursday 28th September LimeCulture will be revealing the winners from their shortlisted nominations for the 2017 LimeLight Awards.

     

    We are absolutely delighted and so proud that one of our ISVAs (advocates) has been nominated for the Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement by an ISVA Supporting Adults.’

     

    Our team member Lisa Monks has done exceptionally well to be selected as one of only three nominees across the U.K.. The award she’s nominated for celebrates excellent practice and the achievements of an individual ISVA who supports adults. All nominees have demonstrated commitment, passion and exceptional encouragement and support for their adult clients.

     

    Lisa has been nominated alongside Yvonne Raybone from Amethyst SARC and Barbara Pawson from Arch North East. We wish them all well but obviously hope that Lisa wins for us, although in our eyes Lisa is already outstanding with or without an award.

    Limelight Awards

    Limelight Awards

    Last year you might remember that firstly, our entire ISVA Team won the “ISVA Exceptional Team” award, for leading the way in the provision of ISVA services and for making a significant contribution to supporting survivors. Secondly that a LimeLight Award was named in honour and memory of our beloved colleague and friend Vicky Bardsley who we still miss so much. Vicky supported children and young people at RSVP and sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2015. The award is one of the many ways that Vicky is leaving a positive legacy for the many sexually abused children and young people she supported.

     

    For the ISVAs nominated for the “Vicky Bardsley Prize: Oustanding Achievement by an ISVA Supporting Children & Young People”  and for the “ISVA Exceptional Team” Award we wish you well.

     

    We’d like to congratulate RSVP’s Lisa Monks and every other nominee shortlisted as we know that it is a fantastic achievement to get this far.

     

    A final message to our Lisa though, we genuinely appreciate you, this award is a testament to your skill, dedication and professionalism, and we hope you win!

    Posted 27 September 2017
  6. Meet Mark – LGBT ISVA

    awards-photo

    The ISVA team with their award, I knew I was being trained by the best, but now it’s official!

    My name is Mark and I am a new member of the ISVA team here at the Rape and Sexual Violence Project. I started working for RSVP at the beginning of August and thought I’d share with you how my first few months have been as well as some information on how I and other members of our team may be able to help you.

    Since starting this role I have had a lot of new experiences, met a diverse range of people and been able to attend some excellent training, including the Lime Culture ISVA Development Programme provided by the UK’s leading sexual violence training company. All of the team have been so supportive and welcoming and I feel so happy working for an excellent organisation. This was particularly celebrated when the ISVA team were presented with the Exceptional ISVA Team award at Lime Culture’s Limelight Awards.  I knew I was being supported and trained by the best, but it is now official!

    So why did I decide to join the team as a specialist ISVA to support the LGBT community? Well I have worked in sexual health for the last ten years and much of my experience has been supporting the LGBT community. I am also a member of the community myself and felt I had a wealth of experience that I can offer to further help and support people. As an LGBT Independent Sexual Violence Advocate I can provide practical and emotional support to anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans*who has experienced sexual abuse or violence.

    Anyone can be affected by sexual violence and our great team of ISVA’s can all offer support. However, there are times that someone may feel that they need some specialist support. I hope that myself, and my colleague Bev – the other LGBT ISVA at RSVP – can be there to offer that specific help.

    So why do we have LGBT specific services? Well unfortunately hate crime against the LGBT community continues to remain prevalent in the UK and that includes instances of sexual assault. Stonewall report that:

    “One in six lesbian, gay and bi people have experienced a homophobic or biphobic hate crime or incident over the last three years and that 38 per cent of trans people have experienced physical intimidation and threats” (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/lgbt-facts-and-figures)

    And the Homophobic Hate Crime Report 2013 noted that of these high statistics:

    “One in eight victims experienced unwanted sexual contact.” (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/Homophobic_Hate_Crime__2013_.pdf)

    What is worrying is that “two-thirds of those experiencing a hate crime or incident did not report it to anyone” (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/lgbt-facts-and-figures)

    ISVAs can provide support in a number of ways that can assist anyone who has experienced sexual abuse or violence including:
    • 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 well-being, by chaperoning you on health appointments, including sexual health screenings

    If you feel that any of these services may be useful for you, you can contact an LGBT ISVA by calling 0121 643 0301 option 2 or directly on 07983 555598 (Mark) or 07535172052 (Bev)

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted 1 December 2016
  7. Our exceptional ISVA team!

    awards-photo

    We’re delighted to announce that the RSVP Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) team has been given the Exceptional ISVA Team award at the first Limeculture Limelight awards, a real credit to their tireless work for survivors. The award acknowledged the immense changes that the ISVA team had gone through, including losing a much loved team member Vicky Bardsley, to cancer last year.

    Lime Culture are the training establishment who offer a high standard of training to ISVAs around the UK.

    The Umbrella sexual health partnership has seen the ISVA team double in size this year and really broaden the scope of advocacy support, developing the profession and what it means to advocate for survivors.

    Yvonne Langham, Head of ISVA Services and Margaretta Vauls, Children & Young Person’s ISVA, were there to accept the award along with CEO Lisa Thompson.

    “As Head of ISVA Services at RSVP, I am absolutely delighted that our amazing ISVA team has won the Lime Culture LimeLight Award 2016. We had a really lovely day which ended fantastically when we were announced as the most exceptional ISVA team. Wow, I’m still smiling and feeling terribly proud!  The lovely glass trophy I accepted on behalf of the team now sits in our reception area, please take a look when you next pass through.

    This award confirms that our staff are truly a remarkable bunch of people, who always go the extra mile and work to the best of their ability to offer support to those who need it. We assist any female or male survivor who needs advocacy support with anything relating to the sexual abuse or sexual violence they have suffered. For example, we can assist with medical appointments, arranging counselling or helping people all the way through the Criminal Justice Process should they decide to report the abuse to the police. There are many ways the ISVA team can assist you, please feel free to ask for a call from one of us if you feel we may be able to help.

    Due to prior ISVA commitments such as attending Court or accompanying clients to sexual health screening, getting everyone together for a Team Award picture has proved to be a challenge! I have taken a photograph of each member of the team with the wonderful award.” Yvonne Langham, Head of ISVA Services.

    Margaretta was also nominated in the children’s ISVA category, well done Margaretta! The children’s ISVA award was named the ‘Vicky Bardsley award’ in memory of our wonderful friend and colleague. The winner of that award was Helen Leach of RASA Merseyside who has set up a children’s service from scratch.

    Thank you to Limeculture, and to those who nominated the team.

    You can read more about the ISVA service here

     

    Posted 6 October 2016
  8. Lisa our Local Leader

    We’re so proud of Lisa, our CEO, who recently won a Birmingham-wide Local Leader Award 2016 for her leadership here at RSVP. She received her award alongside other third sector leaders in Birmingham for her excellence in leadership, her commitment to her team, and her contribution to society.

    In her video application, Lisa talked about her team being her inspiration, and her job as a leader merely about creating a positive environment for her team to thrive in.

    “My job…is to create a nurturing, safe, boundaried environment where my team can get on with their work, utilise their skills and fly. Where they can harness their knowledge and humanity to restore the broken trust of the people we support, and for that I celebrate and salute them.”

    We salute you too Lisa, thank you for your great leadership and we look forward to a bright future with you at the helm.

    For more information about the Local Leaders Awards see their website here.

    image

    Posted 21 September 2016
  9. LimeLight Award Nominations!

    Our amazing team has been recognised once again, this time by LimeCulture – the UK’s leading sexual violence training and development organisation. This year marks LimeCulture’s first ‘LimeLight’ awards, which aims to ‘acknowledge the outstanding contributions and achievements of individual ISVAs, ISVA Teams and ISVA Managers who have demonstrated excellence, dedication and commitment to supporting victims of sexual violence through their work’.

    We are honoured to have been nominated for two out of the possible four awards.

    Margaretta Vauls has been nominated in the ‘Children and Young People’s ISVA’ category (named the Vicky Bardsley Award after our colleague, who was a children’s ISVA) for her outstanding commitment and contribution to her field of work.

    The whole RSVP ISVA team has been nominated in the ‘Award for Exceptional ISVA Team’ category, a real credit to their constant demonstration of excellence in the service of survivors.

    We couldn’t be more happy and proud of our ISVA team in being recognised, but also for the incredible work we know that they do everyday, helping survivors to cope and thrive through difficult circumstances. Thank you to LimeCulture for recognising us in this way.

    The awards will be announced on 28th September, so keep your eyes peeled for the results!

     

    Limelight image

     

    Posted 21 September 2016
  10. ISVA Limelight awards

    Limeculture’s LimeLight Awards for outstanding ISVA support is open for nominations until Wednesday 31st August. The four awards acknowledge the outstanding contributions and achievements of individual adult ISVAs, children ISVAs, ISVA Teams and ISVA Managers who have demonstrated excellence, dedication and commitment to supporting victims of sexual violence through their work.

    Vicky and Lisa

    Vicky Bardsley (right) with RSVP CEO Lisa Thompson

    The LimeLight Children’s ISVA Award is dedicated to Vicky Bardsley,   an accredited ISVA who worked at RSVP. Vicky sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2015 leaving behind her family, many friends and her committed colleagues, and a positive legacy for the many sexually abused children and young people that she has supported.

    If you you have received excellent support from an ISVA, you can nominate them for an award, follow the link www.limeculture.co.uk to download a nomination award and cast your vote. Return your completed nominations via email to info@limeculture.co.uk

    Posted 25 August 2016

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