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Doctorate honours work to end sexual violence

We are truly delighted this week to be celebrating something very special and unusual : the conferring of an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University on our Chief Executive Sandy Brindley.

Sandy was nominated for this distinction by Professor Michele Burman, Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences and Professor of Criminology at the university, whose reasons for doing so are outlined in the generous and fulsome submission she made to the University Senate and gave kind permission for us to reprint below.

[Photo: Dr Sandy Brindley with Professor Michele Burman]

The doctorate represents a wonderful recognition of Sandy’s efforts and achievements, but for us at Rape Crisis Scotland it holds a wider significance. For beyond the personal distinction marked by this honour, the award is indicative of the growing profile of the rape crisis movement in Scotland, and of increasing awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence, its drivers and its impact on survivors and on others affected by this devastating crime.

We have tried through our work, via many different projects and initiatives over the last 15 years (since the establishment of Rape Crisis Scotland as a national organisation) to develop services and to campaign for the change that needs to happen in Scotland so that survivors have vital access to the support and the justice they deserve.

As National Coordinator and now Chief Executive, Sandy has taken the lead on these, but this kind of change can never be solely attributed to the efforts of one person: collaboration and partnership is and always will be the key to moving things forward in the right direction for survivors; this award reflects as positively on the work of everyone involved, including the significant contribution made by survivors of sexual violence.

Much remains to be done, but we are deeply gratified that Glasgow University has chosen to honour Sandy and by extension our work to end sexual violence in this way.

Presentation speech by Professor Michele Burman, Head of School of Social & Political Sciences and Professor of Criminology

'Chancellor, by the authority of Senate, I present to you this person on whom the Senate desires you to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of the University:

Sandy Brindley

Chancellor, this University has previously recognised those who have made a special contribution to social justice and the advancement of gender equality and Sandy Brindley is no exception. It gives special pleasure to introduce someone who is also a double alumna of Glasgow University.

Born in 1974 in Forth in Lanarkshire, Sandy with her sister Tracey were the first in their family to attend university. Sandy arrived at Glasgow University in 1991 and graduated with an MA (Hons) in History & Politics in 1995. Thereafter she commenced an MPhil in Women’s Studies here, and graduated in 1996.

In 1994, whilst still at University, Sandy began her long association with the Rape Crisis movement, volunteering at the Rape Crisis Centre in Glasgow providing one-to-one support to survivors of sexual violence. Following her MPhil, Sandy worked full-time at Rape Crisis Glasgow, leaving in 2002 to establish Rape Crisis Scotland, the national umbrella body for rape crisis, where she is currently Chief Executive.

In this role, Sandy Brindley has been at the forefront of initiatives to raise awareness of sexual violence, challenge public attitudes and press for legal change to improve victim-survivor’s experiences of the criminal justice system. A passionate advocate for ensuring that the concerns and needs of rape survivors are considered in any legislative or policy development, she has also been instrumental in the development of three major public awareness campaigns which challenge the myths of rape. Her ability to communicate has been a cornerstone of her achievements - with a desire to see change being the source of her energy and drive.

As a member of the Scottish Law Commission’s Advisory Group, Sandy played a pivotal role in redefining the crime of rape to include male rape, and the provision of a (much-needed) statutory definition of consent. In 2009, with Margaret Curran MSP, she lodged a successful amendment to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill to remove reference to the concept of prior consent, to ensure rape complainers’ access to justice.

In 2013, she identified the need for prevention work with young people around their understandings of consent and the formation of healthy sexual relationships and went on to develop an evidence-based programme on these issues. This programme now works with over 13,000 young people across Scotland every year.

In 2016, she was instrumental in Rape Crisis Scotland intervening in a landmark judicial review which improved the privacy rights of rape complainers by conferring on them a right to access Legal Aid to oppose defence attempts to seek to disclose their personal medical records. She is a member of several strategic working groups to improve responses to rape, including the Scottish Government’s Joint Strategic Board on Violence against Women and Girls, and the Crown Office Expert Group on Sexual Offences.

More recently Sandy was instrumental in establishing the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, a groundbreaking initiative which provides free legal advice to survivors of gender-based violence and which aims to improve women’s legal rights through strategic litigation.

Chancellor –Sandy Brindley - Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, legal reformer, working mother, and champion hill runner who can run up and down Ben Lomond without once stopping - has made an enormous contribution to the furthering of the ideals of justice, and the achievement of gender equality. In recognition of these achievements, I ask you to confer on Sandy Brindley the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.'