Survivors of abuse in Cambridgeshire have described specially trained staff as “life-saving” in a new report.

A report released by the Government on the rape review process highlighted how the Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA) service worked effectively with the force’s Rape Investigation Team (RIT) to offer the best service to survivors. 

ISVAs provide practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, recently or in the past.

They help survivors access other available support services to address both short and long-term needs. They also support survivors through the criminal justice system, providing information on what happens when you report to the police.

The report said: “Due to the phenomenal working relationships with Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Rape Investigation Team, officers will offer all victims reporting to the police a referral to the ISVA service and will personally ensure that referral goes in.

“A duty ISVA will contact the victim within 48 hours to make an initial assessment and allocate a member of the team. Every effort will be made to ensure the same ISVA supports the victim throughout their journey through the criminal justice system, building strong and trusting relationships.

“The service has grown significantly since its inception, including both specialist child and adult posts and an outreach service to engage with seldom-heard-from communities.”

Recent data from the Criminal Justice System dashboard revealed that Cambridgeshire had the lowest percentage of investigations closed due to victim disengagement in the East of England between June 2022 and July 2023.

The report goes onto quote a girl who was 12 when her court case was heard and a guilty verdict reached for her abuser. She said: “I will never forget everything you have done for me. I can barely put into words how thankful I am that you cared for me through everything.”

Detective Superintendent Sherrie Nash said: “The professionalism and compassion of the expanded ISVA team, Rape Investigation Team, Sexual Assault Referral Centre and other partners is the reason why survivors in Cambridgeshire are gaining confidence to come forward and tell us their story.

“The services have been praised time and time again by survivors in their feedback, describing it as "life-changing" and "life-saving".

“I’d like to remind survivors out there you don’t have to report to the police to get support from an ISVA. They can help those who are not reporting to access support for their emotional needs as well as help with safety planning. They can help you understand how the criminal justice process works, and what happens if you choose to report to us.”

The ISVA service was commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, two local authorities and NHS through a pooled budget arrangement in 2020, on a five-year contract.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Darryl Preston said: “The Cambridge and Peterborough Rape Crisis Partnership provides crucial support for adults, young people and children. It’s great that their amazing work and that of the rape investigation team officers has been recognised.

“Working in partnership with colleagues across the sector my office has been extremely successful bringing additional funds into the county which have been invested into providing additional support for victims and survivors.”