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Speaking Truth To Power - The Survivor Reference Group

A blog to mark the publication of the Survivor Reference Group Initial Report.

Last week we sat in a room in Glasgow and as sunshine poured in through the windows survivors delved into the details of where the justice system in Scotland had let them down. These conversations aren’t unusual for us at Rape Crisis Scotland – justice is one of our key priority areas – but what made this conversation out of the ordinary was that looking on and listening in were Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

It was a meeting of power, though of very different kinds. Where the Justice Secretary and Lord Advocate have both a great deal of responsibility for justice in Scotland and power in terms of how this is – and is not – delivered, survivors were there to speak truth to it. In doing so with strength, courage and vulnerability, each of them showed the power of stories and of speaking out to effect change.

It can never be right that the process of seeking justice following sexual violence in Scotland is described by some as worse than the assault itself. We know that it is never going to be easy, but we also know it doesn’t have to be this hard.

Children are never culpable for their abuse

On the face of it, legislation in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, provides strong protection for children under 13 from rape. Regard

Under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, children under 13 are deemed incapable of consenting to sex. There is no defence of mistake in age, making it what is called a strict liability crime. To prove rape of a young child (defined as under 13), the Crown need to prove that penile penetration took place, and that the penetration was by the accused. Unlike other rape cases where the complainer is over the age of 13, they do not need to prove lack of consent of the complainer or lack of reasonable belief in consent on the part of the accused. This is because children under the age of 13 are considered incapable of meaningfully consenting to a sexual relationship.

[Image by Ben Seidelmann from Flickr, reproduced under Creative Commons licence]

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