Understanding victims' experiences

Identifying improvements in the criminal justice process. 

Research into the experiences of rape and sexual assault victim-survivors will help ensure the interests of victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system.

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) project will seek to identify and understand the range of factors that affect whether individuals who experience rape and sexual assault choose to engage with the criminal justice process.

Researchers will also consider how the system can support those who have been raped or sexually assaulted to give their evidence in the best way.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced the Scottish Government funded project ahead of a meeting with Rape Crisis Scotland, where he and Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood will hear a survivor’s personal experience of the justice process.

He said: “Listening to the views of survivors of rape and sexual assault is so important and I am humbled by the courage of those who are prepared to speak out where the system is not delivering for their needs. “Going through the justice process can be a daunting experience and I am determined that we do more so that all stages are victim-centred and trauma-informed.

“This research will help identify examples of best practice and the changes needed to improve victim-survivor confidence in the system, and ensure it balances responding to the needs of the very vulnerable with the rights of the accused.”

Dr Oona Brooks-Hay, lecturer in Criminology at SCCJR, University of Glasgow and lead researcher said:

“This research will be an important opportunity to speak directly to victim-survivors of rape and sexual assault about their lived experiences from the beginning to the end of the criminal justice process.

“Only those who have been through this process can tell us what it really feels like and what matters to them. We know from our earlier research about the role of Rape Crisis Advocacy Workers that a number of challenges remain in what can often be a difficult and lengthy process.

“Developing an in-depth understanding of victim-survivors’ needs, expectations and experiences as they progress through their own ‘justice journey’ is crucial to improving their encounters with the criminal justice system and the evidence that they are able to provide.”

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said:

“We need to hear directly from rape survivors about their experience of the justice process, good and bad, if we are to improve how we support them throughout the process. This research will play an important role in helping us consider how to secure better evidence, and any steps that can be taken to reduce any avoidable distress or trauma.”


The final research report – ‘Justice Journeys: informing policy and practice through lived experience’ – will be published in February 2019.

The research team are: Dr Oona Brooks-Hay, Professor Michele Burman and Dr Lisa Bradley, University of Glasgow.


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