Content warning: this article discusses sexual violence and domestic abuse
In 2021 8,345 sexual offences and 61,175 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by Greater Manchester Police (GMP). Two VCSE and public sector networks show the vital work that the VCSE sector does to support the victims of these, and other, crimes. The Victims Resilience and Reassurance Forum and the Sexual Violence Harm Reduction Group are networks with core VCSE involvement and work in an equitable relationship with the Combined Authority and Police. In this article we look at the impact these networks have had in shaping support to victims. Through their work with the public sector VCSE organisations have shaped the design of services, informed intelligence gathering exercises and become embedded as partners to the public sector.
Victims Resilience and Reassurance Forum
The Office of the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester convened the response to the diverse challenges posed by COVID-19, led by Principle for Victims and Vulnerability, Alison Connelly, for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The Victims Resilience and Reassurance Forum (VRRF) was established as part of these efforts and represented a multi-agency, cross-sector response. The pandemic slowed down the criminal justice process and prevented victims from accessing services. The VRRF brought together commissioned services across Greater Manchester to monitor demand and need, and respond to emerging concerns and issues.
As the forum continued its work during the pandemic, it played a key role in building understanding of the ongoing needs of community and frontline services and how they could support victims. This included support with the development of the Greater Manchester Victims’ Survey and responding to continued challenges due to the COVID pandemic.
The victims’ survey fed into how commissioned services were designed. With over 4,000 responses, this initial survey ensured the voices of victims were central to the re-design of victim services and the way GMP and other organisations support victims throughout their journey. A regular victims’ survey now takes place and responsive service design that takes account of the VCSE sector’s role as provider and source of connection to communities has become embedded as part of the GM Standing Together plan for 2022 to 2025.
The role of the VCSE sector in supporting the victims of crime was recognised with devolved funding of £4.4 million and further embedding of the sector within action and planning and as a key partner. The invaluable experience, knowledge, and insight offered by the sector is shown through the evolution of the VRRF and will continue as the forum develops the partnership between the VCSE and public sectors.
Sexual Violence Harm Reduction Group
During the COVID pandemic, Sexual Violence Harm Reduction Group the SVHRG was convened in a similar way to the VRRF to consider implications arising from the Greater Manchester Sexual Violence problem profile, collaboration opportunities between the partners, and increasing access to and diversity of services. The group works together to develop problem solving approaches; better understand the link between domestic abuse and sexual violence; explore issues of inclusion for identifying ‘hidden harm’ in communities and across protected characteristics such as males/females, including the development of a community champions programme; advise on communications and awareness raising initiatives and programmes; and the ongoing impacts of COVID.
The SVHRG shows how the VCSE sector has helped to embed a victim-informed approach that supports a person through from the incident to investigation outcomes. Alongside partner organisations, the VCSE sector played a key role in finding gaps in the provision of victims’ services and co-designing the response.
The collaborative approach has led to the embedding of a communications and engagement role with a VCSE provider, rather than the GMCA, to avoid separation between the practitioners and supporting roles. This is one example of how co-design and collaboration can increase effectiveness in the provision of services.
Greater Manchester’s VCSE sector is playing a leading role in supporting the victims of crime. It will continue to carry out this vital work and develop ways of ensuring that the voice of the sector, and of victims, is heard when services involving both are being designed.
This article was informed by a conversation with Duncan Craig OBE, CEO of We Are Survivors who is a lead representative for the VCSE on the Mayor’s Justice and Rehabilitation Executive Board, and Gender Based Violence Board.
To learn more about services for victims in Greater Manchester visit Greater Manchester Victims’ Services.
Where to go if you’ve been affected by domestic abuse, rape or sexual assault
– Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Manchester provides a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to men, women and children who live, or have been sexually assaulted, within Greater Manchester. They offer forensic medical examinations, practical and emotional support as well as a counselling service for all ages. Services are available on a 24-hour basis and can be accessed by calling 0161 276 6515.
– Greater Manchester Rape Crisis is a confidential information, support and counselling service run by women for women over 18 who have been raped or sexually abused at any time in their lives. Call on 0161 273 4500 or email email@example.com
– We Are Survivors provides specialist trauma informed support to male victims in Greater Manchester who have experienced sexual abuse, rape or sexual exploitation. Call 0161 236 2182 for help.
– Always call 999 in an emergency
– If you, or someone you know, is feeling anxious and unsafe in their home, visit gmvictims.org.uk (opens new page) or call 0161 200 1950 for help and advice, including how to access local support services. You don’t have to report anything to the police if you don’t want to.
– If you, or someone you know, has come to harm or is at risk of coming to harm, you can report this to Greater Manchester Police via their Livechat facility at gmp.police.uk (opens new page) or call 101. If you, or someone else is in immediate danger always dial 999.
– If you are calling 999 from a mobile phone and you are unable to speak, you can use the Silent Solution by pressing 55 when prompted. Once you press 55, the operator will then transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency.