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Improving outcomes for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence

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Improving outcomes for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence

Jocelyn Anderson has been working within the specialist sexual violence sector since 2002, joining West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (WMRSASC) as CEO in 2004.

With vast experience of multi-agency strategic planning and working, Jocelyn will be speaking at the upcoming ‘Improving outcomes for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence’ webinar hosted by Skills for Justice.

Ahead of the 25 March event, which will explore the state of victim and survivor support in the justice sector, we caught up with Jocelyn to learn more about her work.

1. Tell me about the work of West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre

West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre is a specialist sexual violence support service that offers free, confidential, and non-judgemental support for survivors who have experienced any form of rape, sexual violence, abuse, exploitation and/or harassment at any time during their lives. We work with women, men and children and young people (aged 5+), their families and supporters.

We offer a range of services including advocacy and therapy. Our early intervention and prevention arm – Purple Leaf – offers training for professionals, education within schools and works with children who are displaying harmful or problematic sexual behaviours.

2. What are the challenges in helping victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse to access support?

The main challenge is that demand for our services far outstrips supply, and it largely comes down to a lack of funding.

The Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) recently reported that support services are scarce relative to demand and need, and estimated that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 victims/survivors for every service providing support.

Furthermore, they calculated there were around 55,000 people on waiting lists to access support. More than half of these lists were over six months long, and one in nine was longer than a year.

3. How might victims and survivors be better supported into the future?

Sexual violence in all of its forms are still largely taboo subjects – generally people don’t want to talk about it and when they do, it is often through a victim blaming lens – what was she wearing/why was she there/what did she expect?

You only need to look at the recent cases involving football players to see the hatred and scorn that victims are subjected to.

But, when you look at the sheer numbers of survivors of abuse, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 18 men will be sexually assaulted as an adult and around 1 in 5 children will be abused before their 16th birthday. We need, as a society, to make changes to tackle this abuse – early intervention, fully funded access to support services and changes in the criminal justice process.

4. Are there any new or emerging patterns in domestic and sexual abuse that require additional support services and/or training?

I think there is a wider acknowledgement that sexual violence and in particular child sexual abuse is happening. The MeToo movement, Everyone’s Invited and high-profile cases like Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa draw attention to both sexual violence and domestic abuse. However, reporting rates remain low – it is estimated that 500,000 children are estimated to be abused every year in England & Wales and only 105,000 are recorded by the police.

Changes in technology always bring about new ways for people to abuse others but the core underlying causes of both domestic abuse and sexual violence lie in misogyny, power and control, and inequality.

5. With the upcoming launch of a new apprenticeship standard for Domestic and Sexual Abuse Support Workers, what do you think its impact will be?

Both the domestic abuse and sexual violence sectors have well established, widely delivered training programmes for workers.

The development of the apprenticeships is an opportunity build on the existing expertise and experience from within both sectors to train apprentices, and to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the dynamics and causes of abuse in order to effectively support clients.

Ensuring that the training is provided by established experts who deliver direct support to clients is key and will ensure that survivors receive the best support they can from a team of well-trained, focused apprentices.