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News | Rape Crisis Scotland: Survivors speak out on Policing in Scotland

Rape Crisis Scotland: Survivors speak out on Policing in Scotland

Rape Crisis Scotland have today (3rd November) released a powerful report by survivors of rape, sexual violence, and abuse on Police Responses in Scotland. The Survivor Reference Group (SRG) report details experiences of Police responses to reports of sexual crimes and makes critical recommendations that – if implemented - could transform survivors’ experiences of reporting sexual violence.

Many survivors of sexual crimes do not report what has happened to them for a variety of reasons. For those that do, Police responses are understood as being a significant factor not just in survivors experience of the justice process – regardless of whether the case reaches court and the verdict – but in their ability to come to terms with what has happened and seek further support.

Some of the survivors involved in the creation of the report met directly with Chief Constable Iain Livingstone. The Chief Constable thanked the Survivors for sharing their views and experiences. He acknowledged the report and confirmed Police Scotland's support for a number of the recommendations relating to policing and his commitment to continued collaborative working, to improve the response to victims and survivors.

Good Police responses are valued enormously. However, it is evident from survivor testimony and Rape Crisis support and advocacy work across Scotland that there is a troubling inconsistency in Police response in Scotland. This report makes clead that this must be addressed urgently.

Key issues that substantively impacted the mental health and wellbeing of survivors, in addition to their readiness to engage with the process highlighted in the report include:

  • Poor communication, both in terms of reliability and clarity, but also a lack of compassion for individuals at a difficult and vulnerable time;
  • Problematic and outdated attitudes held around sexual violence and trauma responses that result in careless remarks
  • Lengthy and unclear processes without adequate information being shared, leaving survivors feeling isolated and anxious

Samantha, a survivor, said:

"The police response matters as it shows that someone is standing up for us when we do not have a voice in that moment to do it ourselves. It's knowing that they have our back and will treat us with respect and compassion; a good response can help survivors to gain back trust lost by previous involvement within the system.

How we are treated in those first moments, at the most vulnerable time of our lives, is something that we never forget."

Cerys, another survivor, said:

“Having an open conversation with the Chief Constable is a start. I don’t want to glorify it - there is a mountain of work to be done before we, as a society, can pat ourselves on the back and truly feel we are making progress in managing men’s violence against women. It doesn’t undo the abysmal prosecution rates of reporting, it doesn’t excuse the lack of support for women going through the system we call ‘justice’, it can’t rectify the innumerable women that have already been failed. But it is an important step on the path to change and it is a relief to feel that, perhaps, our screams are no longer falling on ears unwilling to listen. “

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland said:

“We’re immensely proud to have worked with the Survivor Reference Group (SRG) on this report and to endorse these recommendations. The stories contained in this report echo what we have seen and heard through Rape Crisis support and advocacy services across Scotland for many years; it’s clear that something has to change.

In sharing their experiences, members of the SRG act as a driving force for change, pushing decision makers to be bolder and take the action we know is necessary to ensure that survivors in Scotland get the responses that they deserve.”

Though reporting sexual crimes will never be easy, the Survivor Reference Group, and Rape Crisis Scotland argue that it does not have to be this hard. Many of the experiences detailed in the report – of poor communication, inconsistent approaches, and prejudicial attitudes – are not inevitable, and with will and investment could be changed to ensure that, at the very least, survivors are not retraumatised by a system that is supposed to protect them.

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