Experiences of rape victims to shape justice system

23 May 2018, 15:21

Court

The views of rape and sexual assault victims are to shape improvements in the criminal justice system through a new research project.

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) project will seek to understand the factors influencing whether a survivor of sexual abuse engages with the system and look at how the process can be improved.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced the Scottish Government-funded project before hearing a personal experience of the justice process at a meeting with Rape Crisis Scotland.

He said: "Listening to the views of survivors of rape and sexual assault is so important and I am humbled by the courage of those who are prepared to speak out where the system is not delivering for their needs.

"Going through the justice process can be a daunting experience and I am determined that we do more so that all stages are victim-centred and trauma-informed.

"This research will help identify examples of best practice and the changes needed to improve victim-survivor confidence in the system, and ensure it balances responding to the needs of the very vulnerable with the rights of the accused."

Lead researcher Dr Oona Brooks-Hay, a lecturer in criminology at SCCJR, University of Glasgow, said: "This research will be an important opportunity to speak directly to victim-survivors of rape and sexual assault about their lived experiences from the beginning to the end of the criminal justice process.

"Only those who have been through this process can tell us what it really feels like and what matters to them.

"We know from our earlier research about the role of Rape Crisis advocacy workers that a number of challenges remain in what can often be a difficult and lengthy process.

"Developing an in-depth understanding of victim-survivors' needs, expectations and experiences as they progress through their own 'justice journey' is crucial to improving their encounters with the criminal justice system and the evidence that they are able to provide."

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: "We need to hear directly from rape survivors about their experience of the justice process, good and bad, if we are to improve how we support them throughout the process.

"This research will play an important role in helping us consider how to secure better evidence, and any steps that can be taken to reduce any avoidable distress or trauma."