Refuge

REFUGE - THAMES VALLEY INDEPENDENT SEXUAL VIOLENCE ADVISORY SERVICE

Our service

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, the Thames Valley Independent Sexual Violence Advisory service is here to support you. It does not matter when the abuse took place, even if it was years ago. You are not alone.

Remember, if you experience violence or abuse, it is never your fault. We believe you, and are here to listen and to support you.

At Refuge, we understand that anybody can experience sexual assault or rape, regardless of gender, background, age, race, or sexuality. Refuge’s expert Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs) are highly trained to work with everyone – including those who are heterosexual, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.

 

Things were really difficult; I was not going out and could not sleep. I was going mental; the ISVAs are the ones who helped me a lot and contributed in my life; the way I am today is because of them. They lifted me up and helped me a lot. The world was dark but they put a smile on my face.
 

 

Annie*, who used Refuge’s Thames Valley ISVA service.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

 

Our ISVAs work to empower and support the women and men who enter the service. You will be given the opportunity to discuss the impacts of sexual violence on you and the space to consider your options, without judgment.

If you want to report incidents to the police, Refuge can support you. Should you decide to do this, your ISVA will be able to give you expert guidance on how the criminal justice system works. This will include supporting you through each stage of the process, and accompanying you to every meeting with the police, and at court. All support is confidential and tailored to your individual needs.

 

Chris* had been raped by a stranger. He was homeless when he was referred and terrified the perpetrator would find him again. Chris’s immediate need was to find him somewhere safe to live, so I supported him to find secure housing in a new area. I also helped Chris with his finances as he settled into his new home and a kept him updated on the police investigation.

 

Chris did not tell anybody about the rape, including his partner. I provided emotional support to him during our work together and supported him to access a counsellor, who helped him cope with the psychological impact of the rape. I continued to keep in phone contact with Chris. He is now in a much better place and has left the service.

 

Emily*, one of Refuge’s ISVAs explains how she supported her client.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

How can I access the service?

If you have made a report to the police, or attended one of the two Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) in Thames Valley, you should be offered a referral to our service. You will then automatically be contacted by one of our specialist ISVAs.

Additionally, if you tell another professional about the abuse, such as your GP, they can make a referral to our service with your consent.

You can also contact us direct: our Freephone telephone service is open from 9:00am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, on 0800 221 8186.

If you are unable to reach us, please leave a message and let us know when would be a safe time for us to call you back. Alternatively, you can email us on isvathamesvalley@refuge.org.uk

In an emergency, call the police on 999.

 I was scared to go to ‘official’ people because I didn’t know if they would judge me. The ISVA became my first point of contact. She told me about all the options and really helped me; she always put my safety first and she never judged me.

Tania*, who used Refuge’s Thames Valley ISVA service.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

What will happen when I contact the service?

You will be allocated your own Refuge ISVA, who is a member of staff specially trained in supporting people who have experienced any form of sexual violence.

The ISVA will offer initial support and assessment in the way that best meets your individual needs. This might be a first discussion over the telephone, or a face to face meeting. We work right across the Thames Valley area and can arrange to meet you at one of our offices, or in a safe, confidential space close to where you live or work. All our support is delivered in the way that best suits you and your personal circumstances.

Our service is independent of the police or any other statutory agency. Our support will be offered sensitively and discreetly to protect your confidentiality. Refuge will never share any of your details, including the fact that you have accessed the service, with any other agency without your consent unless required by law or by the courts. Your ISVA will discuss this with you.

What can an ISVA help me with?

At Refuge, we understand that everyone’s needs are unique. You may just need to talk, or you may require more practical information.

A Refuge ISVA can provide:

  • A non-judgmental space to discuss your options, such as making a report to the police, or information on terminating pregnancy
  • Someone to talk to about the impacts of sexual violence on you and support you to recover from the abuse
  • Specialist support on sexual health, including information on sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy
  • Support, information and referrals to other agencies and professionals to meet your wider health needs. This includes physical and mental health. For example, an ISVA could refer you to a specialist counselling service in your local area
  • Expert guidance on the how the criminal justice system works, should you decide to report the abuse to the police. This will include guiding you through each stage of the process following a report of rape or sexual assault. For example, accompanying you to meetings with the police and to court
  • Support and information on your financial needs. This could include applying for welfare benefits, staying in or finding employment, and staying in or finding education or training
  • Support and information on accessing, or remaining in, safe housing

No matter what your situation, our ISVA will be able to identify what your rights are, and help ensure that you receive the support to which you are entitled.

Last year I was very suicidal; working with Refuge has given me the courage to be alive and to be a woman on my own and now I have a diploma and I am focusing on my career. Sometimes the choice to live is harder.

Amara*, who used Refuge’s Thames Valley ISVA service.

She (the ISVA) is really helpful. The fact that we can talk about everything does help […] We keep in touch and I feel that I am in the know about progress on my case. She is there for me to talk to, but it is also all the other things that she helps me with – she takes a lot of the stress away from me.

Rachel*, who used Refuge’s Thames Valley ISVA service

*Names have been changed to protect identity