Supporting victims of sexual assault

Survey to encourage more female doctors to train in forensic examination.

A survey of female doctors will try to find out what more can be done to encourage their participation in forensic examinations for victims of sexual offences. 

The Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland (NES) are working together to respond to an area where victims almost always prefer to be examined by a female examiner.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson confirmed the partnership while speaking at an event hosted by Edinburgh Rape Crisis. The event highlighted ‘A Woman’s Story’, a personal account of one woman’s journey through the legal process after a rape had been reported.

Mr Matheson said:

“I am incredibly privileged to have met with the author earlier this year and Edinburgh Rape Crisis’ event was an opportunity to reflect on her words which demonstrated that we still have much to do to improve how our justice system responds to victims’ needs.

“I was particularly concerned about the way she described her experience of the forensic examination process. It is of course vital to preserve and record evidence following a rape or sexual assault, but we must be able do so while ensuring victims are treated with the upmost sensitivity.

“Seeking to achieve a greater gender balance in our forensic examination workforce is one practical way we can respond to this concern. As a first step, I am pleased that NES will survey female doctors to give us a better understanding of their awareness and concerns about this essential work. 

“We need to know what the barriers and negative perceptions of this type of work are and identify how we respond to this currently unmet need.”

 Professor Stewart Irvine, Medical Director of NHS Education for Scotland said:

"We are pleased to contribute to this important piece of work and look forward to working with Scottish Government to improve the situation for victims of sexual assault. We hope our survey of female doctors will help us to identify any possible barriers, so that appropriate steps can be taken to support a greater gender balance in doctors carrying out examinations."

 Sandy Brindley, National Coordinator, Rape Crisis Scotland, said:

“Rape survivors consistently tell us how difficult they find it being examined by a male doctor in the immediate aftermath of being raped. The least we should be able to offer in these circumstances is an examination by a female doctor.

“We are very supportive of the new survey, and the efforts being made by the Government to improve immediate responses to rape survivors.”

Between 25 November and 10 December the Scottish Government is supporting the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism campaign to eradicate violence against women and girls taking place between 25 November and 10 December.


The Scottish Government are committed to tackling and eradicating violence against women and are investing an additional £20 million over three years on top of the £11.8 million committed annually, to fund a range of measures tackling all forms of this type of violence, including domestic abuse. In addition, we will introduce in Parliament a new domestic abuse offence that will recognise psychological abuse as well as physical abuse.

Funding from the £20 million Violence Against Women justice fund has also secured a 18 month post within NHS Scotland specifically tasked with working with NHS Boards to examine what services are currently being provided and where there are barriers or obstacles which require to be overcome to provide an appropriate standard for all victims of sexual abuse.  



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