It may seem strange to highlight the fact that Rape Crisis Scotland’s primary focus and central purpose is supporting survivors, yet some recent commentary, particularly online, has made this seem like an opportune moment to do just that.
For while we run a national helpline to offer support to
anyone affected by sexual violence (to talk through with them the many painful
struggles that can follow this experience, help them identify options for
moving forward and, if they want to, take action or seek other practical
assistance) our remit and what ‘supporting survivors’ actually means, extends
well beyond a front-facing service for those in crisis and their friends and
‘Supporting survivors’ also means campaigning for change in their interests, to help them get proper access to the justice for what has happened to them, and to prevent survivors being further harmed or deterred from speaking out. It means challenging directly and campaigning to change societal structures, processes, and institutions which can act as barriers to people who have experienced sexual violence when they seek redress or justice – barriers which can all too often seriously compound the impact of that violence and make things very much worse.
Today saw the announcement of a long-awaited review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
A landmark case in July saw a woman challenge and successfully overturn an element of legislation relating to Criminal Injuries Compensation, which had previously barred victims of a crime from claiming compensation if they had lived under the same roof with the perpetrator of that crime prior to 1979. In the case of JT, the challenger in the case in July, this meant that in spite of the years of sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather, she was not entitled to claim compensation until the ruling, because, in spite of the fact that as a child she had no control over the matter, she lived in the same house as her abuser. The UK government is not appealing against the decision, and will introduce secondary legislation to abolish the rule.
Moments like this, when so much media preoccupation (both mainstream and social) is centred on allegations of sexual harassment, offer a timely opportunity to highlight the impact of public statements on sexual violence, which all too often lose sight entirely of their very real impact on survivors.
Taking the step to report any sexual crime can be difficult, and it’s vital that when someone does, they know that they can do so with confidence that they will be both believed and supported, and that proper procedures will follow. [Image © Laura Dodsworth]
We were proud to be represented at the recent #DumpTrump rally in Glasgow by our Training & Volunteer Coordinator Mridul Wadhwa, whose perspective and words of inspiration are published below...
"When I told my son Zhen: 7, brown, migrant parents, loves his mother, a trans woman - that Donald Trump is coming to Scotland, he said 'Take cover!' Why wouldn’t he? But we aren’t going to, are we? For his sake, for my sake and the sake of women and all survivors of sexual violence, we must protest.
[Picture credit: KaleidoScot]
Survivors of rape need and deserve many things in the aftermath of this uniquely devastating crime, and the chance to receive justice for what happened is certainly one of them.
What they do not need is for the devastation they have already experienced to be compounded by the very system which is supposed to protect them.
What the rape complainer’s search for justice means in reality can be a very different to what many survivors (and the wider public) envisage – as they find to their cost when they embark on what can be a lengthy and sometimes tortuous process – only to receive nothing that resembles justice at the end of it. The route to justice for rape is punctuated by many barriers, and the impact of these, whether singly or cumulatively, in addition to the ongoing impact of the crime itself, means that many complainers feel that they cannot continue with a case, and need – either for their health, through fear of the process itself – or for many other good and valid reasons – that they simply cannot go on, and would rather put the search for justice aside in favour of their mental health, or simply because the pain the process itself can [Image © Laura Dodsworth] cause is simply not worth the odds of a guilty verdict, which, according to the latest available statistics, are low – and falling.