ASSIST NI works closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, statutory services and voluntary sector organisations across the region to provide victims of domestic and sexual abuse who are engaging with our services, with support and information (including on the criminal justice process). Our role involves undertaking needs and risk assessments and advocating on behalf of victims.
ASSIST NI is made up of a project manager, lead advocates and advocates located in police stations across Northern Ireland as well as the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre (the Rowan). The lead advocates are responsible for providing immediate crisis intervention by making initial contact with victims of domestic or sexual abuse whose details have been shared by the police (who are victims of crime), who have been referred by The Rowan or from a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference meeting.
Our team at ASSIST NI assess need and risk, working with these victims to create a safety support plan and help deal with the trauma of any crime committed. Our advocates are experts at engaging with victims, providing non-judgemental, trauma-informed and victim-centred support. Find out more information about the victim’s journey with ASSIST NI here.
We are here to support and guide you, maintain and encourage any engagement with the criminal justice system and advocate on your behalf where issues arise. We are equipped to support victims through barriers to accessing services, such as diversity and culture; our team has the knowledge and skills to support victims of all genders, adults and young people, victims from the LGBTQ+ community and victims from minority faith or race groups.
Advocacy means taking account of what the victim’s needs are and working towards meeting those; the provision of information to enable the person to make their own decisions and to explore their options.
Our ASSIST NI advocates recognise the victim as having the most specialised knowledge of their life, views, wishes and feelings. The advocate role will also be key in ensuring that the victim’s voice is heard and taken account of when formulating support plans and making decisions.
Find out more about victims’ journeys with us by clicking through the buttons below.
Police Service of Northern Ireland
When you report a domestic or sexual abuse crime to the police they will share your details with us at ASSIST NI, unless you have indicated that you do not wish your details to be transferred.
MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference)
You, as a domestic or sexual abuse victim, are referred to us at ASSIST NI with your consent.
The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre
Staff in The Rowan will speak to you about our advocacy service. If you consent, a referral will be made to us.
Self-referrals are welcome, where you would qualify for the service, i.e. you have reported a domestic or sexual abuse crime to the police and are engaging with the criminal justice system, are a victim of domestic or sexual abuse, engaging with the Rowan or have agreed to be referred following a MARAC meeting). Your case will be allocated by one of the lead advocates.
One of the team at ASSIST NI will contact you within 48 hours of your referral being received.
ASSIST NI Referral
When we receive your referral, your circumstances are carefully examined by a lead advocate. Where you proactively indicate that you do not wish to be supported by an advocate of a particular gender, this should be facilitated as far as possible. We will then assign an advocate to contact you, preferably via telephone or your preferred method of communication (email or text) within 48 hours of the case being referred to the service. If contact fails or is unsuitable then we will refer back to the referral body to try and obtain further details: Police (investigating officer), MARAC, or The Rowan, ensuring your contact details and the preferred method of contact is used.
If you wish to engage with us, an advocate then begins developing an initial needs assessment to ensure your essential and critical needs are addressed.
The advocate carries out a risk assessment and considers any shared information from referral and a Safety Support Plan is created with you. This will be reviewed and adjusted according to any changes in your circumstances. The advocate discusses the extent of advocacy support and the emotional and practical support available. The advocate will inform you about data sharing and confidentiality as well as your rights under the Victim Charter.
The advocate determines if you have any additional support needs or require any assistance engaging with the investigating officer or key service providers (such as mental or physical health services, social services or safe accommodation), including as a result of difficulties that are being encountered.
The advocate will liaise with police where they are encountering difficulties. If possible, the advocate will arrange an appointment to see you one-to-one for the next support session.
The advocate will meet one on one with you at an agreed time and location. Any security issues will be considered, including in terms of your individual safety needs.
The advocate will speak to you about your safety and determine whether the level of risk has changed since the initial contact. The advocate will discuss the needs assessment with you on an ongoing basis, and empower you to choose a tailored support plan.
The advocate will assist you with practical support where necessary, which may include preparations to leave and access safe emergency accommodation, support to keep children safe, access benefits and financial management.
Health and wellbeing support includes assistance, where required, to access or be referred to necessary treatment for physical injuries, specialised sexual abuse support, substance misuse support, access to counselling, specialised mental health support and access to life skills groups.
You will be supported to access the services of Victim Support Northern Ireland (including their Witness Service) if you are not already engaging with them. The Victim and Witness Care Unit keeps you updated and informed about the progress of your case. Victim Support NI’s witness service will accompany you in the courtroom. The advocate is there to provide you with one-to-one support sessions throughout the progress of your case if needed.
You will receive ongoing support through one-to-one support sessions with our ASSIST NI advocate. The advocate carries out ongoing reviews of the risk assessment and your support needs to identify any further support required. The necessary referrals are made to any specialist agencies. The advocate also provides ongoing impartial support and contact throughout court proceedings. A midway questionnaire is completed to monitor the progress of your journey.
You will be offered a penultimate one-to-one session with the advocate, who will ensure that you understand the outcome of your case. Reviews of your options will be discussed, and you will be supported to review and update your support plan. You will be encouraged to use the information provided by the service to ensure your long-term safety.
You will attend a final one-to-one support session with your advocate. You will be supported to transition from ASSIST NI to relevant agencies, specialised programmes and support groups where appropriate. You will complete an exit questionnaire to summarise your progress. You will then safely exit the ASSIST NI service with an additional sense of independence.