New Independent Rape and Sexual Violence Advocate for LGBT people

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Bev Higgins writes about her new role working with the LGBT Community

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?

The Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) (http://www.rsvporg.co.uk/) and Birmingham LGBT Centre (http://www.birminghamlgbt.org.uk/) are working together with Umbrella Sexual Health Services (https://umbrellahealth.co.uk/) to offer you this specialised LGBT sexual abuse service.

ISVA stands for Independent Sexual Violence Advocate.

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) (http://www.horizonsarc.org.uk/)
• 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.

Being groomed?
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
Email: isva@rsvporg.co.uk

About RSVP
We have supported survivors of rape and sexual abuse since 1978, when we were established as Rape Crisis. We provide compassionate, confidential and free services to women, children and men living in Birmingham and Solihull. At RSVP, we believe that everyone deserves a life free from sexual violence and abuse.
www.rsvporg.co.uk

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