Sexual Violence and Mental Health
Do you work with young people who have been affected by sexual abuse and are part of an ongoing criminal investigation? Are you a safeguarding lead who is aware of any young person within your school being supported by an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) following sexual abuse?
We are currently using a new risk and needs assessment tool developed by Lime Culture following Home Office funding for use by Independent Sexual Violence Advisers working with victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse. Please find out more about the tool and how you could adapt it to fit with your organisation and service users.
We have been adapting the risk and needs assessment tool to make it appropriate for our work with children and young people who have been affected by sexual violence and abuse.
Part of the assessment that is particularly relevant to our work includes looking at the young person’s risks or needs in relation to their education setting. Our ISVA uses the assessment to look at whether a young person’s experience(s) of abuse has had/is having an impact on their ability to study and in what way e.g. are they not attending school/college, struggling with their work etc? They will then work with the young person and the education institution – whether that be primary school, secondary school, a Pupil Referral Unit, college or alternative education provider – to help put into place the appropriate support for the young person to enable them to stay and engage with their education.
Best practice example: working with an education provider and a young victim of abuse
Working with Chloe (name changed to protect identity) at the beginning of a sexual abuse investigation, Safe and Sound’s ISVA found that she was having difficulty managing her emotions in school and feeling snappy and upset often when she was in class.
Like many, Chloe’s school operate a ‘Time Out’ card system, which young people are issued with on a case-by-case basis. If a young person shows this to a teacher during a lesson, all teachers are aware that this means their student is able to leave the classroom discreetly to take a short break and therefore not disrupt others.
Our ISVA asked Chloe if she would be happy for her to approach the school to see whether she could be issued with a Time Out card to be used in cases when she was feeling emotional in her lessons. It was explained to Chloe that this was up to the school to issue, to manage her expectations, and that if she was to get one she was advised to only use it when she was struggling.
We also spoke to Chloe about whether she might benefit from support internally within the school and whether she already had a good relationship with any of the pastoral staff there that she might like to meet with specifically if things were getting difficult whilst she was at school.
After gaining Chloe’s permission, the ISVA approached her school with these requests and the school responded in full agreement that the suggestions proposed would be put in place to ensure Chloe had appropriate support within school.
In addition to the Time Out card, Chloe now sees a school pastoral lead once a week for an hour to see how she is and ensure she feels supported within school.
We are pleased that the school took on board the suggestions made and could see the benefits for Chloe. Both the school and Chloe have told us that the system is working well and Chloe says she feels much more supported.
If you’re supporting a child or young person who is suffering from extreme emotional distress, trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), considering how their education setting may be adapted by speaking to their school or college could really help them to engage with school whilst feeling supported in a way that is appropriate to their needs.
We would also encourage safeguarding and pastoral staff within schools and colleges to consider how vulnerable young people could be supported whilst in their education settings to help them feel as if they have somewhere to go for help and support, and making suggestions where appropriate. It is important to keep solutions adaptable, as not all suggestions will work for all young people.