Violence against women and girls funding review: analysis of responses

Analysis of the responses to the Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls Services call for evidence.

Question 4.5

What role should Police Scotland play in the provision of services for women, children and young people experiencing violence against women and girls?

218 responses were analysed for this question, consisting of 149 individuals and 69 organisations. These organisations were 8 local authorities/governments, 3 NHS organisations, 41 third sector organisations, and 17 classified as "other" or did not specify. There were five themes emerging from the qualitative analysis of the free-text responses to this question.

Theme 1: Promote cultural and behavioural change within the organisation

The most common theme was the respondents' suggestion for a cultural change in Police Scotland. In particular, respondents raised concerns about police officers' attitude towards VAWG reports and highlighted that the allegations of women were not taken seriously by the police and were often dismissed without investigating. According to some respondents, police officers are sometimes biased in favour of the perpetrator. Responses also voiced the need for a cultural change resulting in officers not blaming the victim and listening to their side of the story.

A few responses pointed out that women and girls do not feel comfortable reaching out to the police as the public perception is that there is significant institutional bias and sexism, and police should take proactive action to change this perception. Another aspect of cultural change emerging from the responses was the need for Police Scotland to raise awareness around VAWG and promote a zero-tolerance culture.

"When we spoke to women, they informed us of the misogynistic attitudes they faced when reporting their experiences. They felt they were often not believed or felt pressured into not reporting the event to save the paperwork for the police." (Third sector organisation)

"[…] we would note that some groups of women are more likely to distrust the police and justice system than others on account of other characteristics (e.g. women of colour, disabled women). The Police should take this into consideration in their efforts to provide services - they need to firstly, build trust. More focus needs to be put on tackling the root cause of women feeling unsafe in their interactions with the police service and in society more widely." (Public sector/ Higher and Further education organisation)

Theme 2: Additional training to be offered to officers

Numerous responses suggested to provide training to officers as they stated that police officers lack the appropriate preparation to identify and address VAWG. A few responses also highlighted the need for trauma-informed practices and training.

"Likewise, just as the NHS can train their staff on VAWG this should be the same for Police Scotland. This training could also include how police can identifying at an early stage when someone could benefit from VAWG support." (Third sector organisation)

"Frequently they are first responders to an incident and, as such, it is essential that officers are fully trained (mandatory training) so that they provide a sensitive, trauma-informed response to survivors. This response includes making the survivor feel that they are believed." (Third sector organisation)

Theme 3: Appropriate punishment of perpetrators

The need for appropriate and swift punishment of offenders was the third most frequently mentioned theme. Responses indicated that offenders were often not punished, or the punishment was significantly delayed and inadequate. The appropriate punishment related both to a sense of justice, but also of safety, as perpetrators released early could pose a danger again. Finally, some respondents were concerned that rapists and abusers could end up in female prisons or in women-only services and spaces based on a gender approach.

"The perpetrators of domestic violence must be detained immediately. There must be provision for arrested alleged perpetrators to be removed from the home and kept in custody pending investigations. Police must play a more significant role in alerting family courts as to the danger of awarding access to perpetrators of male violence." (Third sector organisation)

Theme 4: More female police officers

Another suggestion by the respondents was the recruitment of more female police officers. The responses highlighted that women and girls would feel considerably more comfortable around women officers and it would increase their trust in the system and reduce trauma. A relevant theme was the creation of a dedicated, specialised unit that would deal exclusively with cases of VAWG. The respondents that suggested this unit often combined it with the need for women police officers.

"Police Scotland should have dedicated women and girls protection officers in each Health Board/Local Authority area whose sole focus is to support victims and bring perpetrators to justice." (NHS organisation)

"There should be special task forces and specialised training for officers who may be dealing with traumatised victims as there is a lot of misunderstanding about the effects of trauma and how they present in different people. This support should always be single sex wherever required so recruitment drives in this sector should be aimed at attracting more females specifically for this role." (Individual)

Theme 5: Interagency collaboration and signposting

The last theme was the importance of interagency collaboration. Respondents emphasised that Police Scotland cannot and should not offer holistic support to victims. Instead, according to the respondents, the police should focus on identifying and apprehending the perpetrators. However, these responses also emphasised the signposting role of the police, referring victims to the appropriate services through seamless and efficient interagency collaboration.

"Activities in support of eliminating VAWG could also fall within the public health approach to policing, building upon recent developments such as the collaboration between Police Scotland and PHS to take a population health and wellbeing approach to inequalities, addressing the root causes of crime, and safeguarding vulnerable people in our communities. Close partnership working should ensure seamless provision of care across different sectors and organisations." (NHS organisation)



Back to top