Strengthening support for sexual assault victims

Consultation on improvements to forensic medical examinations.

Proposals to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault have been launched.

The consultation, which addresses recommendations made by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS) to strengthen delivery of healthcare and forensic medical services, will seek views from health and justice organisations, medical professionals, the third sector and survivors.

It will also look at provisions for situations where a victim chooses not to report the crime to police, or is undecided, but wishes to undergo a forensic examination and access healthcare.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Improving healthcare services for victims of rape and sexual assault is a priority for the Scottish Government and we are committed to ensuring strategic leadership to help deliver that.

“We are clear everyone who needs it should have access to a forensic medical examination, wider healthcare interventions and support, whether or not they have reported the crime.”

Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said:

“The proposals for legislation will provide greater clarity around the statutory responsibility for delivering forensic medical services and will be informed by those with lived experience.

“The launch of this important consultation builds on the work of the Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce, which was set up to provide more consistent access to services for victims, and the Equally Safe Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls.”

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, added:

“This consultation is an important step in improving services for anyone in Scotland who has been raped or sexually assaulted. The response someone receives immediately following a rape or sexual assault can make a huge difference - this consultation makes it crystal clear that our response needs to be trauma informed and based on what someone needs at that time. This should make a real difference to people’s lives.

“Whether to report to the police can sometimes be a difficult decision to make immediately following a rape or sexual assault. The proposal in this consultation to enable people to get a forensic examination even when they are unsure about reporting is so important. It means that potentially crucial evidence won’t be lost.”


The consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault runs for 12 weeks and fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government 2018-19 to consult on proposals to clarify in legislation issues around forensic medical examination. Follow @EquallySafeScot for updates.

Ahead of the launch, the CMO visited the Equally Safe Multi-Agency Centre in Edinburgh which will deliver specialist services for child and adult victims of sexual support, supported by £2.4 million from the Scottish Government

The CMO leads the Rape and sexual assault taskforce, supporting Health Boards to provide consistent, trauma informed healthcare and forensic medical services and access to recovery for anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault.

In December 2017 Healthcare Improvement Scotland, commissioned by Scottish Government, published Standards for Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services for People who have experienced rape, sexual assault or child sexual abuse.

A Victims Taskforce was set up in December 2018, to provide leadership to improve people’s experience of the justice system.

In January 2019 the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls’ first report called for a world-leading process for complainers of sexual violence.


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