Rape and sexual assault victims say they’ve been let down by Police Scotland

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Survivors of rape and sexual assaults in Scotland have criticised police for how they were treated when reporting the crimes to them.

A Rape Crisis Scotland report, released today, shows that many victims have felt let down by the justice system to a degree from initial enquiries right through to prosecutions.

The charity joined up with the Survivor Reference Group (SRG) which has now highlighted seven recommendations that it feels can help Police Scotland in the future.

Key issues to come out of the report show how the below had an impact to the survivor’s mental health and wellbeing while engaging with police during their investigations 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  • Problematic and outdated attitudes held around sexual violence and trauma responses that result in careless remarks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

Survivors expressed their disappointment in the way their enquiries were handled as seen with some of the testaments in the report:

Extract from the report
Extract from the report

It also looked at the way evidence was gathered by police from victims with several survivors voicing concern that “all available evidence was not gathered/looked into sufficiently – including one survivor whose perpetrator was not even questioned.”

Another criticism was that officers did not inform victims of what was being taken and why when their property was searched and “at what point they could return to their homes and when their belongings would be brought back to them.”

Extract from the report

However, not all experiences were negative with one survivor praising the communication from the force by receiving regular updates.

Extract from the report

One survivor, Samantha, 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.”

Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, Sandy Brindley, 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.”

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson, Pauline McNeill added: “This eye-opening research lays bare what survivors are up against.

“These testimonies are horrifying – but they are also grimly familiar.

“These issues are raised time and time again, but progress has been woefully slow.

“This report must be a real wake-up call for a justice system that continues to fail women.”

Some of the survivors that were involved with the report have already met with Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, where he acknowledged the report and confirmed that Police Scotland’s support for a number of the recommendations that were related to policing.

The charity says that Mr Livingstone is committed to continue collaborative working, to improve the response to victims and survivors.

This was echoed in Police Scotland’s statement given out in light of the report being published.

“There is much still to do…”

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “We thank the Survivor Reference Group and Rape Crisis Scotland for their perspectives and challenge in this important area.

“It is vital we listen carefully to the experiences of victims, and act.

“The Chief Constable was very grateful for the opportunity to listen to those experiences directly, which will help us improve our response to rape and sexual offending.

“This report recognises the positive difference specialist officers can make and we know from regular discussion with Rape Crisis Scotland that the engagement of our Sexual Offence Liaison Officers (SOLOs) is generally welcomed.

“We’ve developed specific guidance for officers to help them engage with victims in a professional and empathetic way from the early stages of such reports.

“Training for SOLOs and other investigators now include trauma informed inputs.

“We are also working with Rape Crisis Scotland and The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in a test of change process for Video Recorded Interviews for victims of rape and serious sexual crime, which are being piloted in three divisions.

Although there are good responses from officers which are valued enormously according to Rape Crisis Scotland, “there is a troubling inconsistency” still and Police Scotland has acknowledged that “there is much still to do” at their end.

The Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline is open nightly 6pm-midnight on 08088 01 03 02 / support@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk / 07537 410 037 (text).

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