On this page, Yorkshire Survivor's Pathways have compiled the answers to some common questions that survivors may have about sexual abuse, the help services available, and the reporting processes.
Questions about sexual abuse services
What is a specialist sexual violence service?
This is a service that works only or primarily with all forms of sexual violence including childhood sexual abuse, assault, grooming, exploitation and adult rape, assault, and abuse. They specialise in this area and will have a greater understanding and more effective interventions than none specialist services.
All services work slightly differently and cater for different demographics, for example some may cater for adults and children, and others only adults. Some services will only work with women, whilst others cater for all genders. Specialist providers will all have slightly different services but most will offer a supportive service, a counselling service, and potentially group work and a helpline.
Why are there so many different services?
Each region operates slightly differently which can make navigating services difficult. The 3 common services are the SARC, ISVA, and specialist services. Each of these do different things, the first 2 are primarily dealing with reporting while the specialist service is focused on the Survivor and ensuring they offer services to meet their needs.
What does ISVA mean?
ISVA stands for ‘Independent Sexual Violence Advisor’, these advisors are independent to the reporting process but can support you through reporting. Read more about ISVAs here.
What does SARC mean?
SARC is an acronym for ‘Sexual Abuse Referral Centre’, these centres can give advice but are primarily set up for reporting, they are designed to make you feel more comfortable than giving evidence at a police station or hospital. Read more about SARCs here.
Can I use services located outside my immediate area?
It will depend on the individual service, as some will be funded by local sources which will only cover people in a certain area. However most specialist services understand that people may want to access out of area for many reasons and will be as accommodating as possible.
I am under 16 what services are there for me?
ISVA services should be available to you, you can also see what else is available to you by selecting your search region and choosing the ‘Young People’ demographic. Not all services will cater for all ages 0 to 16, for example some will only serve 13+, and others will cater just for girls.
To get started, browse the services directory.
I am a man what services can I access?
While unfortunately not all services are available to men, many are. To see what is available in your area, browse the services directory.
Are there any LGBT specific or friendly services?
Most services are LGBTQ friendly, though some regions may offer LGBTQ specific services, but unfortunately there are not a great number of these available. To see services which are LGBTQ specific, select your search region and choose the ‘LGBTQ’ demographic.
To get started, browse the services directory.
I am a friend or family member can I get support?
Most specialist services will also support friends and family members, to find out more about your local service browse the services directory.
Questions about reporting
Do I have to report?
No, in fact 80-90% of people do not report what happened to them. It is a personal choice but if you are thinking of reporting it is useful to get some independent advice from your local sexual violence service, ISVA team or SARC beforehand. They can talk you through the realities of reporting and the different options available to you in your area such as anonymous reporting.
How do I report?
You can report in a number of ways, including through the ISVA, SARC, or the Police.
- SARC – you can refer yourself to the SARC, which can do forensic examinations and video evidence – read more about the SARC.
- ISVA – the ISVA team can help you access reporting services and support you through the process – read more about the ISVA services.
- Police 101 – if you want to report directly to the police without talking it through with support services, you can ring 101 in a non-emergency.
- Police 999 – if the crime has just happened or you still feel under threat you can ring 999 for an immediate response.
Yorkshire Survivor’s Pathways strongly recommends getting some independent advice from your local sexual violence service, ISVA team or SARC before reporting to the police.
What’s the difference between reporting to the police or reporting to the SARC?
If you report directly to the police they are duty bound to investigate, with the SARC you can have a confidential conversation and even give information anonymously.
Is my information confidential?
Each service will have a different confidentiality policy so it is always best to check with your chosen service.
Most specialist sexual violence support services will hold your information with the utmost confidentiality, but this will differ if using the police or SARC services, and may change if you are under a certain age (for example 16), or if you tell a service you or someone else is at risk of harm.
Due to the nature of what is being discussed, your chosen organisation should make it a priority to talk to you about their confidentiality policy in your first meeting so you can feel at ease – but always feel free to ask if it is not covered or you have not understood fully.
What if I don’t report?
That is absolutely fine. A lot of people don’t. You should never feel pressured into reporting, it has to be the right choice for you.