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WMS commits to trialling sexual violence training for medical students

16 dats

Warwick Medical School have committed to the addition of specialist training on sexual violence awareness and communication skills for their second-year medical students in the 2023/24 academic year.

The news is announced as part of the School’s commitment to 16 Days, an international campaign founded in 1991 by the Women’s Global Leadership Institute, marking 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The 16 days begin on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Developed by Alice Roberts, a graduate-entry medical student with several years' experience in the rape crisis sector, the training is being introduced as a trial for the entire cohort with the view of becoming a permanent feature on the curriculum for future years.

Why do medical students need sexual violence training?

Over 1 in 4 adult women in the UK experience sexual violence in their lifetime1. Sexual violence has many health consequences - ranging from chronic pain to PTSD, to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)2. Medical students and doctors will frequently encounter survivors of sexual violence throughout their career.

In 2013, the World Health Organisation published a report on sexual violence and intimate partner violence, strongly recommending that, as a minimum, all healthcare professionals receive training on providing first-line support to survivors of sexual violence3.

Despite this, very few doctors receive any specialist training on how to communicate with, and support, survivors of sexual violence. Research into survivors’ experience of healthcare shows survivors are often dissatisfied with healthcare encounters, and want to be asked about sexual violence4.

What does the training involve?

A pilot training course ran in September 2023 on a group of 15 students. The training is made up of an online workbook, which students complete in their own time, preparing them for an in-person interactive session delivered by professional rape crisis centre trainers. The objective of the training is to increase students’ awareness of sexual violence, and increase their confidence in asking patients about sexual violence and responding to patient disclosures.

The training had incredibly positive feedback from students, and evaluation of the students before and after the training revealed significant increases in knowledge and confidence. For example, before the training, only three students could name appropriate services to signpost a survivor to. After the training all students knew of at least three relevant services.

Dr Emily Crosse, practising NHS GP and WMS teaching staff member, completed the online training course and observed the in-person pilot session. She says: Because of the online sexual violence training, I have changed my clinical practice. Prior to the training I would ask about sexual violence in consultations with specific presenting complaints. However, now I am more aware of the wide variety of ways a patient may present, so I have started to talk more about sexual violence during consultations. This session teaches essential skills for any training or practising doctor to ensure we are supporting survivors effectively.”

What next?

The training course will be delivered to an entire cohort of Phase 2 (second-year) Warwick medical students in 2024. It will be evaluated with student questionnaires before and after the training to test its effectiveness and to collect feedback from the students.

WMS staff are in discussion with students about how to incorporate teaching on sexual violence into their spiral curriculum, and to ensure the topic is appropriately covered throughout the course.

If you have any questions about this training course, or the presence of sexual violence in the curriculum for medical students, contact Alice Roberts via

To find out more about the 16 days campaign, visit this page.

1: Rape Crisis England and Wales. (2023). Rape and sexual assault statistics- sources. Access via

2: Jina R, Thomas LS. Health consequences of sexual violence against women. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2013 Feb;27(1):15-26. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2012.08.012. Epub 2012 Sep 10. PMID: 22975432.

3: World Health Organization. (‎2013)‎. Responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women: WHO clinical and policy guidelines. World Health Organization.

4: Caswell RJ, Ross JD, Lorimer K. Measuring experience and outcomes in patients reporting sexual violence who attend a healthcare setting: a systematic review. Sex Transm Infect. 2019 Sep;95(6):419-427. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2018-053920. Epub 2019 Jun 19. PMID: 31217323.