Promoted every year, Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week starts today, 6th February 2023, and IRISi is joining this global awareness-raising campaign.
One of the IRISi’s interventions, the ADViSE programme supports sexual health clinicians to identify and respond to patients affected by Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse (DSVA) – and provides them with a simple referral pathway for patients into specialist services. ADViSE is currently running in Greater Manchester, Bristol and South Gloucestershire and, in just one year, more than 300 referrals were made through this intervention – which means that more than 300 people were identified by sexual health clinicians as victims and survivors of DSVA.
By developing and delivering interventions adapted to each healthcare setting, IRISi reinforces its commitment to improving the healthcare response to any type of gender-based violence, including Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence. If you want to learn more about it from the healthcare perspective, please have a look at these 5 topics.
What do we mean by Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence?
According to the Sexual Abuse Support website, “Sexual violence or sexual abuse are ways of describing any unwanted sexual act or activity. It does not matter who commits it, where or when it happened, it is never okay, and no one ever deserves for it to happen.”
Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence include (but aren’t limited to):
- Sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Child marriage
- Digital abuse
- Sexual exploitation
Why do healthcare professionals need to know about Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence?
The Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims (CSEW, 2019).
Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, sexuality, race or gender identity. However, like domestic abuse, sexual violence is a gendered issue and women are at greater risk.
How might IRISi interventions support you to recognise and refer patients affected by Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence?
IRISi is a social enterprise established to promote and improve the healthcare response to gender-based violence. It means that we have been working to improve the recognition of violence and abuse by healthcare professionals, who may be the only ones able to identify and offer support – according to the Department of Health, 80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services and these are often a woman’s first, or only, point of contact.
We also know that the signs of Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence can be identified in your patients during consultations, but they are not always as clear as one would imagine. IRISi’s interventions, such as the IRIS and ADViSE programmes, were developed to improve the recognition of these signs, providing an enhanced referral pathway to specialist services for victims and survivors of any form of gender-based violence. Core areas of these programmes also include ongoing training, education and consultancy for the clinical team and administrative staff.
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What are the options available to offer support for a patient who discloses Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence during a consultation?
There are many ways to provide safe and appropriate support for your patient through IRISi interventions, but, if your practice or clinic is not enrolled in our programmes, we strongly recommend you support your patient to self-refer to the local specialist support service or a national helpline. Here are some options:
The 24hr freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for men experiencing domestic violence from a partner or ex-partner (or from other family members).
Provides free, confidential and independent services for all LGBT+ people who have experienced sexual assault, violence or abuse, however or whenever it happened.
Provides help and advice about violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Wales.
Why do I am my health care colleagues need support to better address this issue?
Evidence shows us that the ongoing support from an Advocate Educator, provided by all IRISi’s interventions, increases identifications and referrals over time. In addition to this, we also know that, if funding for our programmes ends, there is a quick decrease in identifications and referrals. Our interventions go beyond training and raising awareness about the issue of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence; we become part of the healthcare setting to provide holistic support for your patients and a cost-effective solution for your practice or clinic at the same time. Please get in touch and discover how we can help you so you can help your patients.