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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):

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Stalking
  • Grooming
  • 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.

Please get in touch with us at info@irisi.org to know more about this.

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.

Related Articles

Find your nearest IRIS site

The IRIS Programme provides specialist advocacy and support to patients registered at IRIS-trained practices who have experienced domestic abuse.

Find your IRIS site



AVA is an expert, groundbreaking and independent charity working across the UK.

Their vision is a world without gender based violence and abuse. They aim to  inspire innovation and collaboration and encourage and enable direct service providers to help end gender based violence and abuse particularly against women and girls.AVA’s work is focused around those areas where they can make the best contribution to ending violence and abuse. They do this by making sure that survivors get the help and support they need in the here and now, through providing innovative training that has a proven direct impact on the professional practice of people supporting survivors of violence and abuse

developing a range of toolkits, e-learning and other material that supports professionals to provide effective and appropriate support to survivors of violence and abuse

using our influence and networks to ensure survivors voices are heard. We work closely with AVA in many areas including the Pathfinder project



SafeLives are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 victims at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually. SafeLives are members of the Pathfinder consortium.



Imkaan is a UK-based, Black feminist organisation. We are the only national second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls i.e. women and girls which are defined in policy terms as Black and ‘Minority Ethnic’ (BME). The organisation holds nearly two decades of experience of working around issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ violence.

They work at local, national and international level, and in partnership with a range of organisations, to improve policy and practice responses to Black and minoritised women and girls. Imkaan works with it’s members to represent the expertise and perspectives of frontline, specialist and dedicated Black and minoritised women’s organisations that work to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Imkaan delivers a unique package of support which includes: quality assurance; accredited training and peer education; sustainability support to frontline Black and minoritised organisations; and facilitation of space for community engagement and development. They are a part of the Pathfinder Consortium.


The University of Bristol CAPC
The University of Bristol CAPC
The University of Bristol CAPC

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.  It is part of Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching.

A dedicated team of researchers at the Centre work on domestic abuse projects and IRISi is a co-collaborator and partner on some of these projects including ReProvide, HERA and DRiDVA.

The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation

The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. The Health Foundation’s Exploring Social Franchising programme aims to generate a deeper understanding of the potential of social franchising models for scaling effective health and social care interventions within the NHS.

We are one of four project teams participating in the programme to develop a social franchise to enable the sustainable spread of our intervention, the IRIS Programme. We receive funding and support from the Health Foundation, including technical expertise on social franchising, and attend programme learning events. The Health Foundation has also commissioned a programme-wide evaluation to support understanding of the use of social franchising in the UK health and care system. We and our franchisees will support the evaluation through co-designing data collection requirements, providing access to data as requested, hosting site visits and attending learning events.



Standing Together Against Domestic Violence is a UK charity bringing communities together to end domestic abuse. They bring local services together to keep people safe

Most public services weren’t designed with domestic abuse in mind, and they often struggle to keep people safe. Poor communication and gaps between services put survivors at risk.

STADV aim to end domestic abuse by changing the way that local services respond to it. They do this through an approach that they pioneered, called the Coordinated Community Response. The Coordinated Community Response brings services together to ensure local systems truly keep survivors safe, hold abusers to account, and prevent domestic abuse.

Their model of a coordinated local partnership to tackle and ultimately prevent domestic violence is now widely accepted as best practice. They are also a part of the Pathfinder consortium.


Spring Impact
Spring Impact
Spring Impact

Spring Impact is a not-for-profit social enterprise born out of the frustration of seeing social organisations constantly reinventing the wheel and wasting scarce resources. Spring Impact uses a combination of tested commercial and social principles and extensive practical expertise to support organisations to identify, design and implement the right social replication model to scale their social impact.

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