IDVAs police bannerIndependent advocacy

Refuge’s independent advocates support survivors of all forms of gender-based violence, including those at highest risk of serious harm or homicide. Independent advocates give a voice to those who feel voiceless, enabling victims of violence to pursue justice and put the building blocks in place to begin a new life, free from fear.

Refuge provides independent domestic, sexual and gender-based violence advocates for women, men and young people – these are known as IDVAs, ISVAs and IGVAs.

Independent advocates also play a crucial role in the community. They provide essential training to key agencies such as the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which greatly improves the way they respond to cases of domestic violence.

  • Creating safety plans and undertaking risk assessments
  • Accompanying clients to court or arranging pre-trial visits
  • Supporting clients to give evidence and write victim impact statements
  • Requesting special measures in court including, for example, screens in court to conceal survivors so they don’t have to face their abuser
  • Access to refuge accommodation
  • Improving security in their property so that they can continue to live safely at home
  • Providing emotional support and referring victims to counselling or mental health services
  • Liaising with social workers on child protection issues

An IDVA’s role often begins at the point of crisis for a victim – for example, just after a police call-out, or when a woman goes to hospital for medical help after a violent attack.

ISVAs are specially trained to support women, children and men who have experienced sexual violence and abuse. IGVAs are advocates who specialise in supporting women and children who have experienced all forms of gender-based violence, such as forced marriage, ‘honour’-based violence, female genital mutilation, human trafficking and modern slavery. Visit this page to find out more about different forms of gender-based violence.

The Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, helps women access independent advocacy services – and all other types of services – across the country. The police and social services can also put you in touch with us; police forces often work closely with their local advocacy service.

IDVA thumbSupport through the justice system

The legal system can be frightening and isolating for victims of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence. Our independent advocates help keep clients safe whilst liaising with the numerous agencies involved in bringing perpetrators to justice. We advocate for the survivor, acting as their ‘eyes and ears’ and keeping them updated throughout the process.

young people advocates thumbSupport for young people

Young women who have experienced gender-based violence, and young men who have experienced domestic and sexual violence, need specialist support tailored to meet their individual needs.  As well as providing practical and emotional support to young people at the point of crisis, Refuge’s young persons team raises awareness of violence and abuse.

sexual violence thumbSupport for sexual abuse victims

Refuge’s independent sexual violence advocates (ISVAs) support anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted or abused – even if the abuse took place many years ago. Our ISVAs are experts and work with everyone regardless of their sexuality and gender identity – heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and questioning.
















Spotlight on: Hertfordshire IDVA service

Refuge runs independent advocacy services across the UK; here we take a look at just one.

Our largest advocacy service is in Hertfordshire, with 16 advocates providing confidential, non-judgmental, independent support to women and men experiencing:

  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Coercive control, intimidation, threats, physical abuse, emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse within an intimate relationship
  • Forced marriage
  • So-called ‘honour’-based violence
  • Female genital mutilation

The service provides tailored, one-to-one support; our advocates also signpost to local external agencies, such as solicitors. To meet a clients’ needs an IDVA may coordinate actions relating to mental health, physical health, accommodation, legal issues, criminal justice agencies, amongst other areas.

“I was given support throughout a very frightening and painful period just after I was assaulted. Knowing that I could call someone and get that help was wonderful – it certainly helped me to recover. I would like to thank the advocate and Refuge very much.”


Emily*, who was supported by a Refuge advocate

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

To access the Refuge-Hertfordshire Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy service: Telephone 0300 790 6772, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm