Recently we caught up with Charlotte Lewis. Charlotte completed her degree in Health and Social Policy with CLL. She now works for the Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) as an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) but is based on campus at Warwick.
Here’s what Charlotte had to say about her experience of studying here and what she’s up to now…
Charlotte, you work as our university independent sexual violence advisor, would you mind telling us a bit more about what your role involves?
I’ve been working, full time, for Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre since 2014 and in April 2018 CRASAC were given funding for an ISVA to be based on the University of Warwick campus to support students and staff members who have experienced, or have been affected by, sexual violence.
The role is independent from the University and involves supporting any member of the Warwick community, students and staff, who have experienced, or have been affected by, sexual violence. I complete a support and needs assessment with each new client and discuss what support is needed ongoing. This includes, but is not limited to, offering emotional support, advocacy and practical advice, giving clients information about their options for reporting, while not pressuring them to report, offering a safe space for them to talk about what is happening for them at the present time, making referrals and signposting to relevant organisations and supporting throughout any university or criminal justice investigations. My main aim for supporting survivors and their supporters is to give a safe, confidential, non-judgemental space where I can help survivors to feel that their voice is being heard and enabling them to gain back some of the control which has been taken away from them by their experience of sexual violence.
Your role must be quite a challenging one, would you say any skills you developed during your degree have come in useful in your role?
The ISVA role is a specialist role so I have completed professional qualifications and ongoing training following on from my degree at Warwick but I feel that the degree opened up doors for me to do that. I started off at CRASAC volunteering on their helpline, after work on a Thursday evening, then when the ISVA role came up 3 years later I applied for the ISVA role.
The role is definitely a challenging one but I feel very supported by CRASAC and have regular clinical and management supervision.
As part of the role I write regular reports and complete some data analysis surrounding this so the degree definitely came in useful for teaching me how to look at quantitative and qualitative data (probably my least favourite module at the time but it’s come in so useful!).
How would you say your degree through CLL has benefited you?
Completing the Health and Social Policy degree programme through CLL allowed me to gain knowledge about various social issues, including sex work, exploitation, youth and society, gender issues as well as issues surrounding homelessness and drug use and abuse. Doing a varied mix of modules sparked my interest in working in a supportive role with vulnerable members of society and gave me the confidence to apply for jobs within this field.
Overall, how did you find your degree at Warwick? Would you recommend your degree to others, if so why?
I found studying for the degree and completing the required academic work difficult at first as I had been out of higher education for so long. However, I felt well supported and encouraged by both the Centre for Lifelong Learning and the Department of Sociology. I would recommend the degree to others as there was a varied mix of modules to choose from and I was able to do the degree, alongside working full time, over 8 years.
Did you face any challenges during your degree and if so how were you supported?
During the degree I needed to take some time out due to personal issues and the Centre for Lifelong Learning were extremely supportive throughout this. When I lost my Dad to cancer near the end of my degree the pastoral support was brilliant and I felt that I was part of a department who cared about the welfare and well – being of their students and who understood the different issues faced by mature students.
What else did you gain from your degree at Warwick?
As I was doing my degree alongside working full time I didn’t get involved in the social side of being at the university, I’d go to my lectures or seminars and then go straight back to work. Luckily my employers at the time were supportive of me doing a degree so allowed me the time to go to classes.
Doing the degree at Warwick gave me confidence in myself, my opinions and my abilities.
How did you find the transition from being a student to a staff member at the university?
I worked full time when I was doing my degree so it didn’t really feel like there was a transition.
Finally, have you thought about your long term career plans?
I love being an ISVA and working for CRASAC, and the organisation continues to grow and evolve so who knows what opportunities there may be? I make sure that I take up every development opportunity and have recently completed a training qualification, allowing me to write and deliver training. I’d ideally like to stay in a supportive role as that is where my heart lies.