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Sexual violence and sexual abuse can be defined as any behaviour perceived to be of sexual nature that takes place without consent or without understanding. It could be physical, visual or verbal, and includes harm carried out through virtual encounters and online offences.

Sexual assault and abuse often goes unreported and it can be very difficult for victims to step forward. Offences take place against people of all ages and genders, and within all faith and cultural communities.

While there are much greater numbers of offences against women and girls being reported; it is important for all organisations to acknowledge that men and boys are also being harmed in this way and take steps to protect them too. In addition, overcoming potential barriers to accessing help and to reporting crime for LGBTQ communities is important in order to keep everyone in the West Midlands safe.

Professionals need to ensure they are working with the knowledge and confidence to be professionally curious, acting appropriately in order to safeguard and support all children and adults where there are concerns of sexual abuse.

There are significant, wide ranging and lasting impacts of the trauma experienced by survivors of sexual violence and exploitation, regardless of the age at which this takes place.  The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is gathering powerful testimony from survivors. It will use this information to deliver an ambitious programme of analysis and research and to make important recommendations about how organisations can better protect young people.

What is the VRU Doing?

The violence reduction unit has a particular focus on preventing harm to children and young people. Many young people who are suffering with drug or alcohol abuse, challenges such as school exclusions, offending, or mental health issues may also have a history of traumatic experiences such as sexual violence.

While it is important to improve the way we all support victims of sexual abuse and exploitation the VRU recognises the importance of preventing offending from taking place. We will help challenge early indications of offending behaviour and work to ensure young people understand consent and are able to develop strong and positive age-appropriate relationships. 

Sexual violence occurs where there is an imbalance of power or an opportunity to intimidate. The VRU can help ensure organisations do not deal with issues such as violence in the night time economy, gang activity and organised crime, or other forms of exploitation without also considering the potential to reduce the risks of sexual violence. An example of this is the closer working that has been established between the multi-agency Rape and Serious Sexual Assault Board and the Domestic Abuse Board.  

Other organisations lead on these areas, but the Violence Reduction Unit can help by  supporting the development of good practice and adoption of approaches that are proven to work.   

Working with the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Board the VRU is supporting work to:

  • Ensure that the national Sexual Assault and Abuse Strategy is delivered through local multi agency plans
  • Ensure professionals adopt a trauma informed approach when dealing with victims.
  • Ensure victims and survivors are involved in the development and improvement of services.
  • Ensure victims’ services are accessible and effective.
  • Ensure there is strong oversight and understanding of the effectiveness of regional interventions and pilot projects.
  • Strengthen the approach to safeguarding, identification and prevention.

Support for victims of crime

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner is responsible for commissioning support for victims of crime. For more information, click here.

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