Abuse Survivors Blog

The importance of training for Independent Sexual Violence Advisors

Written by Jacqui Morton on 08 Feb 2019

ISVA trainingThis week, 4-10 February 2019, is the third annual Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

This awareness week was established in 2016 to highlight awareness of sexual abuse and violence and generate discussion on this difficult topic. With this in mind it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the work of the Independent Sexual Violence (‘ISVA’) and in particular the training they undertake to equip them with the skills they may need in fulfilling this unquestionably challenging and diverse role.

An ISVA can be described as a specialist advocate who works holistically with victim survivors of sexual assaults. ISVAs are unique in that they offer all the advice and information (which is non-judgmental and impartial) that a victim survivor may need when they come forward and to enable them to make informed choices. This practical and emotional support is offered irrespective of whether a victim survivor has reported to the police.

An ISVA can assist with a range of issues including supporting victims of sexual violence in reporting to the police and the criminal process and accessing counselling and mental health services. ISVAs can also provide assistance with arranging support for family members, employment issues and housing and financial issues.

Due to the complex role of the ISVA they are required to undergo specialised, accredited training which provides them with the core competencies and skills to carry out their role and ensure that they are able to support victims safely.

Some are former police officers, teachers, or social workers who are fortunate in that they come to the role with many of the skills and knowledge required by an ISVA.

If an ISVA is working with children, they must undertake additional training due to the differing processes and responsibilities of agencies in response to children. As part of their ongoing training ISVAs attend clinical supervision sessions.

There are a number of accredited providers of ISVA training including the Survivors' Trust. This accredited training will help ISVAs (both established and new to the role) to understand:

  • rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse

  • the role of the ISVA, what is required of them,

  • any legal and procedural issues,

  • the importance of and how to conduct a risk and needs assessment and support plan to identify the needs of a victim

  • multi-agency and partnership working.

Tracey Emmott of Emmott Snell Solicitors is involved in helping those training to be ISVAs to understand what redress there might be available to their potential clients by considering civil compensation claims. Her presentation aims to give the attendees a better understanding of the civil compensation process and how it can be an effective vehicle for redress and reparation to those who have suffered sexual abuse.


During the presentation the ISVAs are guided through the civil compensation claims process which covers a number of elements including:  

  • How civil proceedings differ from criminal proceedings

  • The difficulties and hurdles that victims of sexual abuse face when pursuing these claims

  • The time limits for bringing a civil claim and how the courts can exercise their discretion to allow claims to proceed where they are brought out of time.

  • Possible defendants, i.e the perpetrator themselves and or an organisation such as the local authority, religious organisations, scouts, NHS to name but a few.

  • Funding of civil claims  

  • The importance of evidence and convictions in civil claims

  • How civil claims are valued using expert reports

  • Applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (‘CICA’) 

its not ok 4Importantly, Tracey’s training addresses reasons why a victim survivor may wish to pursue a compensation claim, which may include:

  • accountability of responsible organisation

  • obtaining funds to access specialised treatment

  • bringing some closure

A recent attendee of the Survivors' Trust training course told us of how she found the training to be very useful and helped her to identify any gaps in her knowledge. She said that hearing from Tracey Emmott about how a civil claim can offer more than financial value particularly in light of low conviction rates was:

“amazing, quite empowering and motivational to us who work in this field and gave her hope again”.

Another attendee commented:

I found her talk very informative and interesting. It gave invaluable insights into the civil route, which will enable me to help clients make more informed choices about this option. This is especially important in the light of there being so few satisfactory outcomes on the criminal justice side.

There can no doubt that the role of an ISVA is challenging and diverse and that this accredited training is essential in equipping ISVAs with the skills and expertise that they may need when carrying out their role.

Emmott Snell Solicitors would like to recognise and highlight the invaluable work of the Survivors' Trust and all other charities and organisations and ISVAs who work tirelessly to help and support victims of sexual violence and sexual abuse.

The abuse survivor's guide to making a claim for compensation

Topics: Child abuse

Jacqui Morton

Written by Jacqui Morton

Jacqui is known for her hardworking and careful approach to any legal problem, her excellent rapport with clients and professionals.