Written evidence submitted by Survivors Manchester (VIC0057)
01. Founded in 2009 by Duncan Craig OBE, Survivors Manchester aims to provide support and safe spaces for boys and men affected by sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation; alongside providing an offer for their loved ones. The services the organisation provides aid individuals to explore the impact of abuse on their present lives and develop positive, healthy and proactive ways to cope and recover. The organisation’s vision is to live in “a society where no male survivor is left behind” and has a mission ‘to break the silence of the sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation of boys & men and support them and their loved ones to engage in positive healing, free from the impact of abuse’”
02. Male survivors who wish to access services are welcome to self-refer, or be referred, and following an assessment which takes place within 10 days of receipt of referral, individuals have access to a range of trauma-informed/survivor-centric services as follows: online self help material; email support; telephone support; access to facilitated Drop In, peer-support groups, creative and outdoor activities to build supportive community networks; trauma-informed talking therapy (compliant with IAPT) and ISVA services.
03. In 2022, the organisation reached a milestone, becoming a fully-fledged teenager as it reached its 13th birthday and in its 13th year, it can evidence:
• Since 2009, support has been provided to over 4,500 male survivors
• The average annual increase in requests for support is 32% with a 2021-22 124% increase
• On average, 2-3 new referrals are received every single day of the year
• Since opening in 2014 as the first ever male-specific ISVA service, it has delivered over 25,000 sessions
• The facilitated peer-led support group has welcomed over 500 men through its doors since it opened in 2012; and is so successful that we average 12-15 individuals in each group and now run 4 separate groups (including 1 online).
• The talking therapy service became IAPT compliant in 2015, the first sexual violence service in the UK to do so
• The trauma-therapy service has delivered over 170,000 hours of therapy to male survivors and their loved ones
• The organisations leadership has been invited to speak of their work in over 10 different countries and all continents
• The organisation has trained over 1000 Greater Manchester Police officers as part of the Initial Rape Action training team, including via video during COVID.
• Survivors Manchester holds the independently accredited Male Quality Standards and the national ISVA quality standards.
04. Survivors Manchester very much welcomes the Governments efforts in developing the Victims Bill, which is recognised by us as part of a suite of work that is aiming to put victims first.
05. The following comments are for the purposes of scrutiny and directly attributed to the current draft bill (ISBN 978-1-5286-34052):
06. Section 1 defines a victim as one who has suffered harm as a direct result of “…criminal conduct”, however this definition would exclude victims of some anti-social behaviour, which can have a detrimental impact on an individual.
07. Section 2(3) refers to the code being able to restrict application of provision to specified individuals, which is concerning as a code should cover all victims.
08. Section 5(1) describes those that have responsibility for keeping the code under review and set these as the elected local policing body, identified as the PCC / Deputy Mayor responsible for Crime and Policing. However it is the opinion of Survivors Manchester that governance of the code compliancy should be under the responsibility of the Victims Commissioner England and Wales – whose role is to promote the interests of victims and witnesses of crime and encourage good practice in their treatment.
09. Similarly, Section 5(2) refers to the tasks of the local criminal justice body and Survivors Manchester believes that the Victims Commissioner for England and Wales should be the body that has this responsibility.
10. Section 6 refers to the duties of bodies, agencies and individuals/offices to collaborate in the provision of victim support services. In the bodies identified, no where in this section is the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector referred to which Survivors Manchester believes is an important correction to be made. Whilst it could be inferred that the VCSE is included, as the charity sector in particular provides a large majority of services for victims especially in the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Sector where ‘by us-for us’ services overwhelmingly dominate, it is important that it is a requirement to include the VCSE in any duties to collaborate in the provision of victim support services – including at research, planning and development stages. Survivors Manchester believes that there is should be no conversation about us without us.
11. Similarly, the VCSE is not referred to in Section 8 and must be.
12. Section 8(5) defines violence and includes it being an act against property and includes threats of, however Survivors Manchester queries how anti-social behaviour that is not a ‘criminal offence’ can be included in this definition.
13. Section 9(3)(c) refers to appropriate training and qualifications for advisors, meaning ISVA and IDVA, which Survivors Manchester very much welcomes; however as the proud provider of the first ever male specific ISVA service in the UK, we have been vocal in our desire to ensure that training of ISVAs is quality assured, qualifications are recognised within the criminal justice system, and that the ISVA title is protected to ensure that quality is first and foremost. Survivors Manchester queries how ‘appropriate’ is defined and calls on the bill to be more specific to ensure quality across the UK.
The following comments are general reflections on the current draft bill:
14. The current bill fails to embrace the whole victims journey and must clearly recognise victims from the point of the moment of the event that may later be defined as ‘criminal conduct’.
15. The reference to the victims code throughout the bill appear to still have a sense of being guidelines rather than rights and victims deserve the code to be tougher with respect to them being rights.
16. The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales should be the guardian of the Victims Code and the Rights of Victims and this should be laid out clearly in the Victims Bill.
17. The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales should hold the authority for being scrutiny to how local, regional and national application of the Victims Code is being applied, giving the Commissioner powers to act should localities or national victims services be failing victims.
18. The roles of ISVA’s should be defined, therefore not being confused with other roles within support services for victims; enabling better recognition of the role by the Criminal Justice System; and this must come with adherence to national minimum standards.
19. The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales should have involvement in the governance of advocates standards, training governance, and be the central point of data collection – keeping the Independent function independent.