News

Supporting victims of rape

Published: 01 Mar 2018 10:30
Part of:
Law and order

Matheson announces £1.7m to extend advocacy service after successful pilot.

A pilot scheme to improve the support available for victims of rape as they engage with the justice system will be extended, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson has announced.

The National Advocacy Project (NAP) was set up with Scottish Government funding in February 2016 to help improve the support available to survivors of rape and other serious sexual crimes, and specifically their experience of the criminal justice process.

The Rape Crisis Scotland-led pilot project, and an independent evaluation whose findings are being published today, also sought to gain a better understanding of survivors’ motivations to proceed or not to proceed with criminal proceedings and the difference that advocacy support makes to such decisions.

In response to the evaluation and recommendations, Mr Matheson has agreed to provide enhanced funding of £1.7 million over two years to expand the number of advocacy workers in areas of most demand and provide additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level..

The Justice Secretary said:

“Sexual assault and rape are horrific crimes which as a society we must do all we can to prevent, while also ensuring a robust response to investigate, detect and bring to justice perpetrators.

“The Scottish Government continues to work with partners across public services and the third sector to ensure that victims of rape and other sexual crimes not only receive support, but actually feel supported from the very moment they need it.

“Despite an increase in the number of people coming forward in recent years, we recognise that crimes such as rape and domestic abuse continue to be under-reported when compared to other types of crime, and that an efficient, victim-centred legal process is an essential part of ensuring necessary support for victims.

“Advocacy services have a key role in helping victims to come forward and engage with the legal process and through this additional investment we can strengthen the support available to victims of sexual crime and help secure confidence in the justice system.”

Rape Crisis Scotland Co-ordinator, Sandy Brindley said:

"'Life-changing' is how rape survivors have described the support provided by the National Advocacy Project, in the independent evaluation published today. Reporting a sexual offence and going through the resulting justice process can be difficult, and it's crucial that people have dedicated support in place to assist them throughout this process. We are delighted that we will be able to expand the project, to allow us to more fully meet the needs of people through Scotland who have experienced rape or sexual assault."

Background

The independent evaluation of the National Advocacy Project was undertaken by Oona Brooks-Hay, Michele Burman, Lisa Bradley and Deborah Kyle for the Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research (SCCJR). You can read the research team’s news release, including a link to the evaluation report itself on the SCCJR website.

The Scottish Government has provided £20 million dedicated funding for 2015-18 to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. This included funding for Rape Crisis Scotland to support a national advocacy project (NAP), delivered throughout Scotland with advocacy workers based in each rape crisis centre.  In addition, funding was provided to support the work of the National Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator post and to establish 2 new centres in Orkney and Shetland.  The £1.7m (2018-20) enhanced funding for the NAP builds on the success of the pilot and allows its expansion by increasing the numbers of advocacy workers in response to the issues identified around capacity in the evaluation report. 

The two-year funding represents an increase to £861,000 for each of the next two years – up from £560,000 in 2017-18.  In addition to continuing funding of 15 full-time advocacy workers in each RCS centre in Scotland, the service will be enhanced by the appointment of additional advocacy workers and additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level.

The Scottish Government strengthened and modernised the law through the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act passed in 2009. The Crown Office deploys specialist prosecutors to ensure these cases are given the best available consideration and preparation to help ensure the best possible chances of successful prosecutions.  Police Scotland established a National Rape Taskforce and a Rape & Sexual Crime External Advisory Group which operates across the service to continue to inform and improve rape investigation.

The changes to judicial directions for certain sexual offence trials which came into force in April 2017 aim to challenge any pre-conceived notions that jurors may have about how a person “should” react when they are the victim of a sexual offence.  A high-profile public information campaign challenging wider public attitudes to the issue – #ijustfroze – was also launched last year, commissioned by Rape Crisis Scotland with Scottish Government funding.