A day in the life of an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)

I am one of the two Young Women’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisers at North London Rape Crisis. On a weekly basis, contingent upon new referrals, I am allocated cases for service users between the ages of 13-21, who have reported rape or sexual violence to the police and it is my job to help them navigate the criminal justice system, liaising with the police, advocating for their needs (be that in education, work, housing or health) and to be a mouthpiece for their decisions so that they can be the determiner of their own recovery. My case load can range from between 15-20 cases.

I joined Solace in 2021 volunteering for a year on the NLRC helpline. I then became the NLRC Administrator for referrals and the helpline service before applying for the Young Women’s ISVA post in Spring 2023.

If I’m getting my cardio fill pre-work, my alarm goes off at 6.10 am. After exercising my commute options are very varied depending on what the day ahead holds. I tend to work three days from home, Thursdays are always in the office for our team’s day and one day or more might be meeting clients in any of the boroughs within our service remit, accompanying them to a pre-trial visit, a police meeting, mental health assessments and court.

On this particular day, I start off at home sifting through my inbox and creating a to-do list. First up, I have a one-off call scheduled. (A one-off ISVA call is short-term work which is also divvied out at Thursday’s case review. It is a phone call with a client who is not with the advocacy service yet but they have questions for an ISVA; perhaps they are thinking about reporting; they may have a query about how the police are investigating their case or they might want reassurance or gaps filled in their knowledge about an upcoming stage of their criminal justice journey.)

After the one-off call, I hop on a zoom meeting with one of my clients and her new course tutors at sixth form. She is experiencing panic attacks and breakdowns from the pressure from her impending trial and we discuss feasible adjustments to her timetable, deadlines and a designated person for her to go to when she feels overwhelmed.

Once my notes are written up on my morning so far, I have time blocked out to send texts checking in with some clients and emails chasing up some SOITs – Sexual Offences Interview Trained Officers- who work on my clients’ cases. I also make some alterations to a VRR written representations letter I am working on. (A VRR or Victim’s Right to Review is an appeal process that survivors are entitled to if their case is closed by the police or CPS. As ISVAs we can write representations to advocate for why the case should be reopened and things that may have been missed in the investigation.)

In the afternoon, I shoot off to Camden and have my lunch on the go. Next, I meet a client in an independent coffee shop where it is quiet and we have a catch up. Her case in the early stages of the criminal justice system and she has lots of questions about what is to come so I provide information about what her VRI (video recorded interview) which is scheduled for the following week, might be like.

At the end of the day, I pop into our Camden office to write up my notes and finish off my admin as well as completing any outstanding actions from my earlier meetings. Before leaving, I collect merchandise and banners/flyers for a stall aimed at informing students about Violence Against Women and Girls which I will be attending the following day.

I book a debrief session or I jot down notes for my next clinical supervision. Sometimes, just writing down things that are preoccupying me helps to lighten my outlook and make everything seem more manageable. If I’m feeling stuck or have a problem I also just reach out to my super responsive and compassionate team at NLRC, for pick me ups, bright ideas or to moan about the state of the world.

My team around me, my clients and the work itself. Criminal Justice System processes are ever-changing; no two cases and no two survivors are ever the same so learning and honing new skills is boundless. I know that jobs that you can say that you look forward to everyday are few and far between – but this is definitely one of them.