Repeat violence in Scotland: a qualitative approach

This report presents findings from a qualitative research study which explored peoples’ experiences of repeat, interpersonal violence. The research involved in-depth interviews with people who have lived experience of repeat violence and community stakeholders who support them.

6. Experiences of accessing support

Key points

- A small number of participants had ever reported experiences of victimisation to the police, and fewer still had their cases taken forward to court by the procurator fiscal (mostly in the 'intermittent victimisation' group).

- These participants reported dissatisfaction with their treatment by the criminal justice system, recounting examples of insensitive questioning, invalidation, and lack of support or representation, experienced as secondary victimisation.

- Very few participants had ever accessed victim support services, with low levels of uptake related to exclusion criteria, availability, timing of referrals and readiness for engagement.

- Prior negative experiences with criminal justice processes and professionals contributed to a lack of faith in formal systems, reinforcing a pervasive sense that nobody cares, and no one is coming to help.


This chapter presents participants' experiences of the criminal justice system and accessing victim support, including experiences of reporting victimisation and going to court. The limitations of qualitative research in providing statements about incidence or prevalence are discussed in Chapter 2. That acknowledged, in our sample of 62 participants, a small number of participants had ever reported experiences of violent victimisation to the police, and fewer still had their cases taken forward to court by the Procurator Fiscal. Fifteen people discussed a total of 17 reports[6] relating to their own interpersonal violent victimisation to police – covering community violence (n=4), domestic violence (n=8), and sexual violence (n=5).

As discussed in previous chapters, participants commonly grew up in communities with a culture of non-cooperation with the police and models of masculinity that emphasised invulnerability and self-reliance, alongside a perceived lack of services. A large number of people experienced enduring effects of exposure to childhood abuse and violence as a young person, which impacted later responses to threats alongside vulnerability to further victimisation. In addition, participants reported a series of negative experiences with those in authority, linked to perceptions that their peer group, their family and/or their community were 'looked down on'. As this chapter demonstrates, these factors all had important consequences for people's interactions with police and victim services, resulting in low levels of reporting and uptake of support.

Reporting violent victimisation

This section explores attitudes towards and experiences of reporting violent victimisation to the police, alongside experiences with the criminal justice system. In line with the findings presented in previous chapters, the majority of participants in our 'unsettled lives' and 'mutual violence' groups said that they did not and would not consider reporting violent victimisation to the police or any other authority even in cases involving serious injury and hospitalisation. This was linked to rules and repercussions of 'no grassing', which resulted in a desire to deal with violence themselves. Participants in our 'intermittent victimisation' group were more likely to consider reporting but expressed reservations based on their previous experience of police and criminal justice interactions as victims. These varying responses are illustrated below:

I've thought like, what if this happened to one of my mates, what would I say? Honestly, I don't know. I don't know. I've thought like, if this happened to my friend and she came to me, what honestly would I tell her to do? I don't know. I don't know. I'd like to think I would say, 'Of course go to the police and go and get some justice' and whatever. But realistically- Could I in good conscience recommend it? Probably not. (32-year-old woman, West Urban)

Don't talk to them. But if there's something actually heavy going on, then aye, I do. Like an accident, like somebody got knocked down or something, obviously you would phone the polis. But not like violence or anything. (18-year-old woman, West Urban)

The following section examines participants' wider experiences with police and the implications for non-reporting, followed by a description of their experiences reporting victimisation and going through the criminal justice system as a victim. It then explores some of their reasons for not reporting to the police in further detail, including anticipated stigma, shame, and fear of repercussions.

Wider experiences with the police

Alongside cultural values around not informing authorities, participants' distrust of the police was connected with prior experiences which were negative. This is perhaps unsurprising given most participants had been previously arrested, and/or had witnessed a family member or close friend being arrested. Participants involved in 'gangs', drug dealing, or the 'lifestyle' (i.e., 'mutual violence' and 'unsettled lives' participants) viewed the likelihood of arrest simply as an occupational hazard. As one participant put it:

If you keep on going to the barber's, you're going to get a haircut. (39-year-old man, East Rural)

That said, being arrested was not enough in itself to merit feelings of distrust, with a reference often made to arrests or other experiences with the police involving perceived injustice, bias, or unfair treatment.

As previously discussed, some of our stakeholder and lived experience participants pointed to the impact of intensive or over-policing of disadvantaged communities and groups, resulting in multiple negative interactions with the police throughout their lives:

The police asked us, 'Why is this happening?' And I just said to them. 'The exact same thing as happens every year: because you terrorise them for a year and then they just think that they're going to get the same back'. And that goes through to the wee brothers of the wee brother of the big brother of the dad. […] We were outside [a youth event] and then a police officer came across and grabbed one of the lads and they were just like, 'What are you doing?' We got it on video that they battered the wee guy, he was like 14 years old, they battered him, they swung him about like they were- It was brutal. (Youth service manager, East Urban)

I had a problem with the police, sometimes I'd be drinking in my house, I'd get really drunk on vodka and be quite noisy and neighbours would call the police, the police would come out and I'd give them cheek and it just escalated. […] They'd go away and come back mobhanded with three or four vans and they just all steamed into the house and cart me out. (39-year-old man, East Rural)

Participants felt various aspects of their status discredited them in the eyes of the police, citing the impact of physical appearance, area reputation, family connections, and prior criminal convictions:

We're the most deprived area in [East Urban]. […] It's like people know what you're like just by looking at you, the way you dress, the way you talk, you get looked at different. […] They just want people like us off the street. (19-year-old man, East Urban)

[The police] don't like us. They totally don't like us, we know they don't like us, they hate us. I got told off the CID that all the [District] police don't like us. […] Always judging us because of our family. Talk about your family's past, like: 'No wonder you're like that'. […] Fuck the polis, don't want to talk to them. (16-year-old woman, West Urban)

If you're seen on a bike here, the police are going to stop you. They think the bike's stolen. [The police asked us] 'Where are you from? And we went, [District]. And the first thing the police officer said to us when we said we're from [District], he went, 'Are the bikes stolen?' And we were 14, 15 year old. The first thing he said as soon as we said [District], he said, 'Are the bikes stolen?' (20-year-old man, East Urban)

All they have to do is mention violence in their fucking complaint and the police come mobhanded to my house and I mean two cars, fucking a meat wagon, fucking eight police officers at my door. All come swarming in my garden and coming up my steps fucking trying to get me. (40-year-old man, East Town)

Some people described just one significant incident which was handled poorly and that this was enough to lose faith in the police and the criminal justice system generally. Examples relating to participants' direct experiences of violent victimisation are discussed in the section that follows. The excerpt below recalls the police response after a participant found her brother, who had been stabbed in the family home:

We phoned the ambulance, we said, [my brother is] going to die and he's got a neck injury and the first people to turn up were eight coppers. All that done was made my brother worse and he lost a lot more blood through [an] unnecessary eight police coming in, trying to make out me and my mum were the ones that stabbed him. […] At that moment, how do I know who's stabbed him? I'm only concerned with making sure he's alive. I wasn't here when he got stabbed. […] People don't want to talk to the police cos then you're a grass. But also then you get situations like that. Why would I want to talk to the police? I was a victim in that situation and was crucified by them. (30-year-old woman, West Urban)

This experience solidified pre-existing attitudes towards the police, impacting future decisions to not report her own experiences of violent victimisation.

The absence of police visibility and lengthy response times was also cited as a reason not to rely on the police, reinforcing a sense that no one was coming to help, and it was up to the people in the community to solve problems for themselves:

You've no police presence in the community. That doesn't help things. [The young team] can literally do whatever they fucking want. The last thing lasted half an hour, 40 minutes and nobody turned up. There was folk phoned the police and nobody turned up. […] Half an hour, 40 minutes, and nobody turned up and there was 20, 30 of them with poles, sticks, ballies [balaclavas], everything. (37-year-old man, East Town)

Related to this, there were nuanced perspectives about the limiting impact of distrust and loyalty at a community level on police response, alongside an acknowledgement that if you were in a situation that you couldn't handle yourself, or that your family were threatened, then you would want the police to intervene – but couldn't call them yourself:

The way we grew up, the police don't- They don't do much. They don't help bairns in that area. The police aren't doing anything to stop it, so there's nowhere else for the laddies to- You feel like you've not got a chance. Nobody's helping [the police], so you can't really blame them at the same time. (24-year-old man, East Urban)

I hate the police; I hate the police. But I was praying for the neighbours down the stairs to phone the police. Honestly, I was really hoping that would have happened. But no. But then the boy went with the machete right past my ex-girlfriend's face down the side of the bed, like swung it and it went right down the bed. 'You've got a fucking week to get the money'. That's when they left. That was one of the scariest moments of my life. […] I was all soaking, head burst open. My ex-girlfriend wanted to phone the police and I went, 'No I'll deal with this myself'. (36-year-old man, East Town)

Despite these negative views and experiences, participants often held community police in high regard and referred to specific officers who were 'friendly' and 'went the extra mile' to help them in a time of need. Like the description of workers in community-based support organisations, below, community police offers were portrayed as accessible, approachable, and good at defusing potentially hostile situations, largely because they had taken the time to build meaningful relationships with people within the community:

Obviously, you've got more than one kind of police officer. The majority of police officers that I encounter nowadays, they're response cops. […] They've obviously got a role to play. That role usually is to up the bad guys, arrest people, stick them in the cells. […] One of the best forms of policing that I've ever seen are some of the community cops and some of the relationships that they can build up. […] I've had community officers kicking balls about with teenagers and everything like that and just kind of normalising their kind of relationship in order to combat some of the stuff that they've been told possibly at home or by their peer group in which we're on one side of the divide and the police are on the other. (Peer mentor, East Urban)

It was two community police that met me today. That's how they started coming seeing me at [Recovery group] and all that, to make sure I was alright and stuff. […] My close gets used as like a crack den. The bottom of the close where you come in, they're in and out four of five times between 8 o'clock and 12, while the service button is on. So that's really good and all. Aye, if it wasn't for the two of them, I don't think I'd still be doing as good as I am. […] They're more like my mates now (LAUGHS) more than anything else. We get a laugh and a joke with them. They're just there to help me at the end of the day, they're only doing their job. (40-year-old man, West Town)

I mean, the community officer was absolutely amazing. […] I cannot like say enough to thank them cos they were absolutely brilliant. They actually made [Daughter] feel so much better about it as well. They reassured me, which I've not had reassurance in a long time from any police or any person the way they made me feel that day about [Daughter] getting that abuse. (36-year-old woman, East Town)

Victim experiences of the criminal justice system

A small number of participants had ever reported experiences of violent victimisation to the police, and fewer still had their cases taken forward to court by the Procurator Fiscal. Of our lived experience sample of 62 participants, 15 people discussed a total of 17 reports[7] relating to their own interpersonal violent victimization to police – covering community violence (n=4), domestic violence (n=8), and sexual violence (n=5). A further nine people had police contact following violent victimisation through third-party reporting of community or domestic violence; six of those incidents involved calls to the police by neighbours or strangers in public places, while three participants were visited by police in the hospital or after hospital discharge. Within this sub-sample of 24 people (the 15 people who reported victimisation to the police themselves, plus the nine people whose victimisation was reported by a third party), participants generally reported feeling dissatisfied with their treatment by the police and courts which led to a lack of faith in criminal justice interventions, producing or reinforcing a lack of trust in formal systems. Participants described the ways in which police contact and court proceedings were (re)traumatising, stigmatising, or detrimental to victim/survivors' access to justice – experiences that can be described as 'secondary victimisation'.

Women were more likely to tell us about reporting experiences to the police than men, and most of the examples provided related to sexual violence and domestic violence – although there were some examples of unprovoked physical assaults in the community. It is notable that these types of violence and victimisation fell within the category of 'real violence' or 'bullying' involving 'innocent' or 'vulnerable' victims, as defined by our participants in Chapter 5. These distinctions were not easily identified by the police, however, due to ongoing relationships between victims and perpetrators, e.g., in the case of domestic abuse, especially involving same-sex couples, and disputes between family members (highlighted in the composite narratives of 'Laura' and 'Gillian' in Chapter 4). In examples of 'mutual violence' between young men in the community or the NTE, or drug-related violence involving 'unsettled lives' participants, police were hampered by the 'wall of silence' where victims were generally unwilling to substantiate specific allegations.

In most of the examples of reporting violent victimisation described to us, participants felt that they were not believed or taken seriously by the police, and this had an impact on their propensity to report further victimisation:

When I did report the second time, I was like, 'Right, well, I was completely right all those years ago to not bother doing anything cos it's what I thought it would be.' (32-year-old woman, West Urban)

One participant reported that she felt dismissed by police downplaying the traumatic impact of the incident, explaining that the charge didn't match up with her experience, which she felt was driven by the likelihood of outcome at court:

The police especially had just been so like, 'Och, you know, like you're all right, you're all right, you're not injured'. […] This caused me to feel like it was all being downplayed. To me it felt like legitimate attempted murder because the guy had- he was strangling me […] I think I was close to being dead and I could have been killed. But they charged him with something really minor, they charged him with- I don't know, like some strange version of some minor assault and battery thing and the charge was sort of something like malicious intent to tighten [an item] around a woman's neck or something like that. It was really minor. And part of that was because they couldn't get the camera angle on the [CCTV] so they didn't have the evidence quite to go for attempted murder. (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

Another participant, who reported domestic abuse, felt challenged by police for not reporting earlier, and that her concerns about risk were not taken seriously:

It was the first six or seven months that he started hitting me, and I stuck in that relationship for four years before I actually told the homeless team. […] At the time I didn't report it to the police, it was a couple of weeks after when he sent me a video of himself in the toilet slitting his wrists. That's when I phoned the police. I'm like that, 'If he can do that to himself, what can he do to me?' They're like that: 'Why didn't- Is this the first time you've reported it?' I said, 'I've sat four years not telling anybody'. […] When I phoned them, they said because it wasn't a 999 call when I phoned them, they said, we'll make you an appointment. So it was for the following week, they came to the hotel, they took my statement. (54-year-old woman, West Urban)

When their accounts of victimisation were challenged, participants sometimes felt under pressure to withdraw their statement, especially where they lacked additional support, e.g., friends or family, or specialist victim support services. In the following example, a victim of sexual violence explained the process of withdrawing her complaint after the police explained they would need to contact her family:

They were like, 'We'll need to speak to your mum and your sister' and I was like, 'Can you not tell them?' 'Well, there's no guarantee, you know, there's no guarantee, we can't make any promises about what might come out and what might not' and whatever. And I was like, 'Right, just forget it then, just forget it.' […] I was just panicking, and I just said, 'Right, well forget it then, I just want it dropped'. And they were like, 'Well we can't do that. […] If what you're saying is true, there's a dangerous criminal running around out there and we can't have that, we've got a duty to the public. So, with or without your consent, we have to investigate this now'. And I was completely freaking out at this point cos I'm thinking of my mum, my family, everyone's going to find out and I did just want it to stop at this point. They were like, 'You know the only way that we wouldn't investigate this is if you were to take back your initial statement and write another statement saying that you made the whole thing up and nothing happened'. And I was like, 'Right, OK.' (30-year-old woman, West Urban)

Descriptions of positive experiences of reporting made references to being treated 'kindly' and 'taken seriously' by police, as well as being kept up-to-date with the progress of the case. These descriptions usually related to more clearcut cases, involving a more stereotypical victim and perpetrator, e.g., a young woman assaulted by a much older man, or an unprovoked attack witnessed in a public space. When describing positive experiences with the police, participants usually made reference to a particular officer identified by name, indicating the development of a relationship of trust. Unfortunately, such experiences were not typical, and they were often contrasted with negative experiences of the court process, where participants felt at a disadvantage to the accused due to a lack of representation or information. Some participants negatively compared the experience of going to court as a victim of interpersonal violence versus as a victim of domestic violence, where it was thought procedures were more supportive of victims. The experience of being cross-examined in court was highlighted as a particularly distressing experience, experienced as disorienting and invalidating (as illustrated in the composite narrative of 'Laura', see Chapter 4).

Secondary victimisation was also attributed to feeling disempowered when cases were taken forward against the victim's wishes, for example when an incident occurred in public or involved external witnesses:

Because [there were] witnesses- I still got called to court and I kept saying it didn't happen, I said I didn't want it to happen. I wrote letters to the PF [Procurator Fiscal] and whatever. Then I got called twice but never called in. It's interesting when you think about domestic abuse because you're called as a witness for the prosecution. You're not called as a victim, which is difficult in a sense because you can get absolutely slaughtered by the defence lawyer. (30-year-old woman, West Urban)

Participants also described feeling re-traumatised by the court experience due to prior experiences of reporting childhood abuse:

It brings back all the trauma when I was 12, cos I had to stand on the witness box in the High Court with that and that was a paedophile ring. But the police come up and tell us as well, 'This is happening, we're all going to court'. I'm like, 'Oh shit'. See that word, 'court'? I stood in that stand in the High Court when I was 12 and I swore to myself that I would never be back, and I haven't been back until this. (54-year-old woman, West Urban)

Only three participants, all based in the West Urban case study area, discussed being offered special measures for vulnerable victims and witnesses at court; one person turned this down, while the other two people found privacy screens helpful in reducing their fear of seeing the perpetrator. This special measure also served to reduce some anxiety about giving evidence:

I've been supported with the Procurator Fiscal, they're going to take me in the court and show me around and they're going to put me in a room with a screen, so I don't need to see him. So, they give me support, I feel at ease but I'm just really worried on the day going to court for the support and stuff like that. I'm terrible, I can't – I take panic attacks and stuff like that. […] I don't need to see him, I don't want to – I say that I don't want to look at him, I don't want to see him, I don't want to speak to him. And I am a bit scared about the court and stuff like that but the PF has been brilliant, honestly. Been brilliant. They're going to take me up. They're going to take me up a week before the trial, he says, just to get you familiarised with it. […] You know what, I'm strong, I can do this. The PF are on my side. (51-year-old woman, West Urban)

Anticipated stigma and shame

As discussed above, participants who had reported violent victimisation to the criminal justice system often reported feeling let down by the outcome or the process, and this was often linked to a sense that their identity and/or actions had been discredited, resulting in secondary victimisation. There was a strong sense that participants regretted reporting because they felt that they were not entirely 'innocent victims' or 'not enough of a victim', a feeling exacerbated by insensitive questioning or cross-examination.

Participants were also put off from reporting in the first place, due to fears that their character would be called to question and their credibility undermined through the intrusive nature of the investigation and public nature of court:

I didn't like my chances of anything real coming of it [...] cos it is a 'he-said, she-said' kind of thing and it's not like I was, you know- In a way, it would probably have been better if I was like a bloody mess or whatever because then there's something to go and say, 'Look I've got a broken nose and I've got broken ribs and cuts and bruises' and whatever. Cos then the police would arguably take that more seriously. But I wasn't, so- I had a couple of minor very superficial injuries but nothing you could go and- that would stand up in court, if you like, to use a cliché. I knew that it was wrong, and I knew if there was any justice, then something would happen. But I was realistic enough to know that it wouldn't, so I just never [reported it]. (32-year-old woman, West Urban)

They worried that they would be blamed, discredited or made to feel ashamed for their behaviour or 'lifestyle choices':

I've got the police phoning me up saying, 'Do you want to make a statement?' What, make a statement and get absolutely shredded by a defence lawyer who would ask me 'When was that? What were you doing before?' […] Last week, I had the police trying to phone me three times to see if I wanted to come forward and speak about it, which I said no because that's something that I don't want to hash out in court. (30-year-old woman, West Urban)

Instead of them just putting me in a pigeonhole [as a person with convictions and who uses drugs], being treated as an individual and asking questions. […] If they made it easier to open up and tell them the truth about things without the stigma and the victimisation and tarred with the same old stick, I think it would be easier to speak to them. Being treated on an individual basis instead of just- you're that wee bastard. (38-year-old man, West Urban)

I can't remember if I was in a psychotic episode or drugs, probably both, but I know that I was hurt. I was hit there but I've got no memory of it. […] Twice that's happened, and I don't have memory. So, my big fear is now I've to go to court and I've got to tell them, and I can't remember anything, so I'm really scared of that. (53-year-old woman, West Rural)

Others didn't report because of the stigma associated with the nature of the offence. This was especially the case in relation to domestic and sexual violence, especially amongst men who were victims, where there was the anticipation of gender-based discrimination:

I've got responsibility in the fact that I never spoke about what I was going through. […] I was just ashamed, I was the [professional] working in a [secure setting] but couldn't really defend myself in my house. (38-year-old man, East Rural)

I seen it as shameful. Now I obviously know that's the wrong way to see it but- […] It shouldn't be like this, but the difference between a man and a woman just to go to the police alone is massive because I'm not taking that chance of going in there and it being- I need a policewoman to speak to. That's the reason I'm thinking and that's why I didn't [report] because (a) the pride thing but (b) it was more pride towards the male officers which is not their fault. I would have rather [had] a female officer. (39-year-old man, East Rural)

Fear of repercussions

The ongoing nature of participants' victimisation, their relationships with perpetrators, and the risky contexts in which these took place, meant that some participants reported being fearful of the repercussions of reporting, believing this would make them vulnerable to further harm, e.g., because the perpetrator might target them or become even more violent:

I was scared to phone 999 cos I didn't know what else he would do to me, I was scared to death, I was. I didn't want to phone the police personally. I phoned my pal that kind of knew about him, and she decided to phone 999. (22-year-old woman, West Town)

It was really traumatising; I was really scared. I genuinely thought she was going to kill me. Like I've never felt so much anger in a person. Like, I felt it. I locked my door all the time, my blinds were always down, I hated if I heard a beep outside, a car beep or something, I thought that was them. Anybody chapping my door, I would jump, I thought, they're here. […] It was just fear, I was scared. I just remember being really, really scared cos I didn't know if there was going to be any repercussions. I wouldn't sleep at night; I would have nightmares. (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

I was always really scared to tell people that I had anything like that happened to me because people would think it would be easy to do it to me the next time. (53-year-old woman, West Rural)

There was a lot of repercussions after it as well because I made a statement and then the guys who done that tried to kind of be like, 'Right what are you playing at? Why have you made a statement?' I made a statement to the police about that happening and then they were pretty much harassing me, like 'Get rid of that statement.' And I'm like, 'Why would I get rid of the statement? Like, you stabbed my [family member]'. So, they were kind of harassing me in the gym, they were harassing me outside the gym, they were harassing me at my work. (32-year-old man, West Town)

Participants also expressed fear that reporting or disclosing their victimisation would be distressing for their family, and that the shame and emotional labour of managing family members' feelings outweighed the potential sense of justice:

I never went to the police. I think it would have made me feel worse if I'd went to the police and then [my mum] would have been involved and the whole family would have been involved and I kind of thought, 'That'll make me feel much worse than just getting on with it and not doing anything', which maybe is probably hard for someone to understand why that would make me feel worse but I couldn't have handled her freaking out. […] I just thought, no I can't go in and say, this has happened and then she'll completely melt down and then I'll be worried about her and my sister will find out, my brother. And I just thought, no, I just couldn't. So I thought, no, forget it, just get on with it, which is kind of what I did. (32-year-old woman, West Urban)

I didn't really want the police there cos it'd be statements and calls and court. And she was going to suffer as well, she probably didn't even remember it. So I didn't really want to get the police involved for these domestics. (50-year-old man, West Rural)

Some participants were reluctant to report their experiences of victimisation due to fear of legal and social consequences for the perpetrator or their children:

You know, if you get the domestic, you're- you get bail, so you're not allowed to go to that address, so that stops her seeing her kids. […] The last thing I wanted really was to involve the police just because of the whole situation it causes. (50-year-old man, West Rural)

If they're still having contact with the perpetrator of the violence, then sometimes the relationship is the barrier to them seeking support. Shame, embarrassment, fear, [and when] there's children involved, there's always this pervasive fear of child protection services becoming involved and what that might mean, what that means in terms of their beliefs and understandings of themselves as mothers. (Social worker, West Rural)

Fear of retribution or repercussions was also informed by the cultural stigma of grassing, which conjured a fear of retaliation and further violence as well as social ostracism for being seen to dishonour social values and loyalty to the community. Some participants had to weigh up whether it was more dangerous to report an incident or to remain loyal to the no grassing culture:

It takes a toll on you, it does take a toll on you because, either way, you're going to end up with a sore face. If you don't grass and if you do grass, you're going to end up with a sore face. So, it's- It does take a toll on you and you think, 'What's the point?' (31-year-old man, East Town)

Taken together, these various fears highlight the impact of the contexts of repeat violence previously identified: established relationships and well-developed social networks, including an active criminal economy, accompanied by anti-police norms and a masculine culture of personal retribution.

Accessing support

Participants' responses around access to support were shaped by our recruitment strategy and sites. As detailed in Chapter 2, the majority of our West Urban and Town and all our Rural participants were accessed via support services, however, these were not victim support services but rather prison throughcare and addiction recovery organisations, alongside community cafés and homeless services. The majority of our East Urban and Town participants were accessed via snowball sampling and were not currently accessing any form of support service. Very few of our participants had been referred to Victim Support Scotland (VSS) as a formal form of support for the simple reason that they had not reported their victimisation – and participants were generally unaware that they could self-refer. Only three people recalled being offered details for VSS by the police. Of those who were referred, only two followed up with an appointment. Their experiences are recounted below, but the majority of the discussion focuses on smaller local victim and recovery organisations and informal support. As will be explored in the following chapter, amongst our participants, smaller grassroots organisations were generally seen as preferable because of suspicion of formal systems.

Victim support services

We asked all participants from the lived experience sample if they had ever accessed any support services after they had experienced any form of violence; only six participants said that they had accessed victim support services, including national organisations like VSS and Rape Crisis, alongside smaller, specialist victim services.

VSS is an independent charity, funded mainly by the Scottish Government, to deliver essential services to victims and witnesses across the country. This includes practical and emotional support for victims, including support navigating the criminal justice process (including reporting a crime and attending court), advice on personal safety and rights to compensation, counselling, and links to other sources of help and support. When giving a statement to the police, victims should be offered a referral to VSS and provided with a victim care card that includes information on how to access VSS. Victims can also self-refer to the organisation and are not required to report their victimisation to the police. Many of our lived experience participants said that they were unaware that such support was available, or they were unaware that they were eligible to receive support:

I wouldn't even know what that is. (24-year-old man, East Urban)

I didn't even think there was such a thing as Victim Support. (41-year-old man, West Town)

For some people, there was an incongruence with their identity that precluded them from seeking or accepting support, most often when they did not see themselves as a victim, or as a deserving victim. Amongst our 'unsettled lives' group, there was a deep sense of internalised disadvantage that made some participants reluctant to seek help for fear that they would not be taken seriously, or because they themselves believed they didn't 'deserve' support. Within our 'mutual violence' group, it was common for participants to reject a victim label and thus to believe that they were exempt from support services due to their own involvement in violence, largely in the Urban and Town case study areas. Participants in both groups also emphasised the risks of identifying oneself as a victim, in terms of one's sense of self-respect and respect from others:

I didn't want to admit I was a victim cos when you say you're a victim, it makes you feel like you're quite weak, it makes you feel like almost like you're a victim, you're like, no one picks on me, I'm a man, I'll stop it myself. But if I'm being completely honest, aye, I did think of myself, aye I feel like a victim of this. I didn't want to be involved in this, […] I was involved in it, and I didn't like what happened. (27-year-old man, East Urban)

I don't see myself as a victim. Even when I've been battered and stuff like that, I still wouldn't see myself as a victim. To be fair like, if you think about like from down our way, like if you're seen as a victim, that's being seen as being weak, like somebody that can't handle themselves or can't fight for themselves or stuff like that. Even though being a victim is literally being a victim of a crime, and I was a victim of a crime, but if I had said, aye I'm a victim, like people probably would have battered me or just ripped me for it. (36-year-old man, East Urban)

We used to do work with Victim Support, support with volunteers and what they're saying was quite often they can have the same individual who is also a victim but also up for being accused as well. So, there is that cycle of maybe being the person who is inflicting the violence but also being the recipient of violence as well. So, they are victims of it, but whether they see themselves as victims or it's just something they're part of, I don't know. […] I think sometimes maybe they're angered by certain people so much that they just see it as 'I'm in a feud with this person' but they're not necessarily a victim of it. (Local authority community development worker, West Town)

Even amongst the 'intermittent victimisation' group, who were more often victims of stereotypical types of 'stranger danger', participants struggled with the 'victim' label and discussed this as having an impact on their decision to seek victim support:

It was actually my sister that said, go to Victim Support. But I did feel a bit stupid, to be honest. I did. I think calling myself a victim (PAUSE) – you know, I just felt like (PAUSE) I know it was traumatising but when I was reading through the website and stuff about what happens – like people who get Victim Support – I didn't feel like it was serious enough. I didn't. I thought I'd be wasting their time. Yeah. I don't know. Maybe people – maybe (PAUSE) worse crimes. I mean, it was an attack, but I was OK. I was OK, I mean, I had nothing broken. (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

Professionals can often inadvertently reinforce messages that participants are not deserving of victim status or eligible for victim support through commonly used phrases such as 'chaotic lifestyle', 'placing themselves at risk' 'or 'engaging in risk-taking behaviour', all of which reinforce the message that participants are somewhat complicit in their victimisation, thereby undermining a sense of their right to seek support or redress.

Low levels of uptake were also related to the timing of referrals and readiness for engagement. Several participants reflected that they did not feel ready to access support at the time of police reporting, a point also raised by stakeholders:

Because at this time of contacting the police, I wasn't mentally stable. I didn't have what I had a few years up the line where I had stability. I didn't have that at the time. (41-year-old woman, East Rural)

There probably could be a bit more work done with regards to accessing Victim Support and not necessarily just after you've been a victim of a crime but later on down the road to say, 'Actually, is this still affecting you?'. Cos I think that support gets offered then and there and it's maybe later on down the line when people start reflecting on it, they maybe need that support. As opposed to them saying, 'You've been a victim of crime five minutes ago, there's a number'. Where they're going, 'No, it's far too- I'm still too angry or I'm maybe still – that's still ongoing'. It's not always necessarily that that cycle ends once police intervention happens, it can still be ongoing as well. (Local authority community development worker, West Town)

Other victim support services discussed by participants included Women's Aid and Rape Crisis, alongside several smaller, more local organisations, discussed below.

Responses from police participants suggested there was the potential for more joined-up working between Police Scotland and VSS to better support victims, with one officer highlighting the work done by ASSIST to support women of domestic abuse:

We only see one side of it when we're called out to repeat crimes all the time. You do, you refer people to Victim Support, you refer them to Women's Aid and after that, we don't really see what happens. We just are aware that there's another call to that address or whatnot. (Police officer, West Town)

I've not seen [Victim Support] often down at the court when [it has] got court business on. There is occasionally a rep from Victim Support, but I wouldn't know who they were or if you ask my colleagues if they bumped into them in the stairwell in the court would they know who they were? Probably not. [...] There's probably just not kind of joined-up thinking or joined-up working that there should be. (Police officer, West Rural)

We've got an ASSIST group, a sort of civilian side supporting the police, but we work in the same office, and they will keep a victim up to date with the progress of an enquiry, court proceedings that are coming up, assist with housing, they'll give you a point of contact and then refer on to Women's Aid to alternative accommodation. So compared to what it used to be it's a lot better. The support for domestic abuse is night and day than it used to. (Police officer, West Urban)

Some people who did make initial contact with VSS or another support service after an initial referral said that they never heard back or received a follow-up. These comments generally came from participants in our 'unsettled lives' and 'intermittent victimisation' groups, suggesting that some people with lived experience of repeat violence are open to engaging with victim services, but require further support to establish an initial connection:

I remember them making a phone call to Victim Support and they were meant to get back to me but didn't get back to me. So, I just left it. (45-year-old man, West Urban)

They told me to phone- They gave me numbers and I phoned – is it Women's Aid? I've never heard nothing back from Women's Aid, they've never phoned me or nothing. (54-year-old woman, West Urban)

Non-response, or lack of follow-up, contributed towards feelings of inadequacy or 'not [being] enough of a victim', undermining participants' sense of self or the gravity of their experience. For example, one participant reflected on her pre-assessment phone call with VSS which she said made her feel less of a priority:

It felt to me like it was a service which was maybe underfunded or something or where they were triaging, they were trying to work out who was the most serious and to try to take it from there. […] They have this system where it's like you phone up and someone gets back to you really quickly, someone gets back to you really quickly to try and determine how bad things are for you. And I'm self-deprecating, I understand the criminal justice system, I'm articulate or whatever, so for a range of reasons, they were like, 'OK you seem fine, you seem fine', even though I really wasn't. So they were like, 'OK, we'll give you an appointment with someone to talk to in six weeks'. (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

Some of the participants who did receive support felt that the services or provisions they received were not sufficiently individualised and that they lacked the agency to decide for themselves what might be useful. For example, one participant who suffered a random act of non-sexual violence in a public place felt that the rape alarm she was issued from a support organisation was inappropriate and inadequate, while another felt pressured into being placed in a scatter flat away from her community when she really wanted to stay in her own home:

A lot of people gather round you at these times, they would tell you, 'You know, it's best for you to get out because these things can get bigger and you can-' Just, before I knew it, I was there. That wasn't my strongest frame of mind at that point anyway. (54-year-old woman, West Rural)

Psychological support for trauma

There was also an emphasis on the need for better access to one-to-one mental health support. Even where services were described as 'trauma-informed', participants reported feeling uncomfortable disclosing personal details in a group setting:

There's certain things from my life that I'll not bring in a group and that's just through experience where I've said too much and I've regretted it. So there are things that I can talk about in a group and there's things that I can speak to one of the staff or volunteers about. (38-year-old man, West Urban)

One-to-one, that's when the best things happen. A lot of things happen in group activities but sometimes when you're in a group activity, you can hold back a lot cos you don't want people to- you don't want to expose yourself as vulnerable. And vulnerability, that's where the magic happens. (50-year-old man, West Town)

The limited availability or provision of counselling services was seen as particularly problematic for those experiencing symptoms of psychological trauma, sometimes doing more harm than good:

I went to the [NHS Counselling Service] and there was only 10 sessions which obviously wasn't enough. That was enough to open up the can of worms but not enough to deal with it, obviously. (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

When I talk, when I had so much hidden away, the bubbles were just- Everything just dries and then that would be in my mind tick-tocking again. So after I'd have one session a week and then after that I'd be completely- (PAUSE) withdrawn for like two to three hours and then normally that night I would have night terrors and then for a couple of days after. So, every time that intervention hurt. I would have to have a- I would have to relive it for that period of time. (41-year-old woman, East Rural)

These experiences sometimes exposed participants to the risk of relapse, raising distressing feelings and memories that they were then left to deal with on their own. This was particularly challenging for those living in insecure housing with limited support networks. The difficulty in offering victim support services to people with lived experience of repeat violence is that, as we have seen in Chapter 4, they often have experiences of unresolved trauma which may be intimately linked to their more recent experiences of victimisation. For this reason, some participants highlighted a need for integrated or holistic services for people who experience repeat violence rather than different interventions dealing with different issues separately:

You've got counselling that's really good at kind of looking into previous trauma but it's like people are getting affected by both sides. So if they've got the current trauma of being beholden to a drug or to alcohol, at the same time as dealing with previous trauma as in any kind of abuse that may have happened as a child or whatever, then to look at just one side of it is going to be pointless because you're not going to be able to deal with the full issue. (Peer mentor, East Urban)

One participant compared her experience of accessing support from a national service provider compared with a small local service, noting that funding restrictions can limit the impact of the support offered:

Ten sessions. They're only supposed to provide 10, that's all they get funding for but it's not enough. Anyone who's been through a service like that, working with someone, or having actually been through it themselves, you're not going to be fixed in 10 sessions. Like 10 hours of work for something that's life-changing, it's not enough. So, with [Local organisation], they don't have that limitation, there's no time limit. You'll leave the service when you want to leave, it's a planned exit when you're ready to leave. There's no pressure. So, you don't want them to become that sort of big monster because you don't want them to become so restricted. (32-year-old woman, West Urban)

As we have seen, people who experience repeat violence also often experience multiple other disadvantages and so victimisation may not be the most immediate or pressing thing that they need help with. As the following stakeholder explained:

The cases I've dealt with, it's not common to seek help. […] Reaching out for help about that level of violence just isn't that common, it just isn't. I think if there's issues that go alongside it, if you've also got a drug or alcohol issue or if you've got a mental health issue, then there is that scope to ask for help. But it's not often going to be about specifically the violence and that's going to form part of an assessment that someone's going to make but it's not necessarily going to be front and foremost within that assessment. (Recovery worker, West Town)

This finding aligns with the data presented in Chapters 3 and 4, which highlighted participants' lifelong experiences of violence and abuse, alongside problems related to poverty, health and housing, substance use, offending and criminalisation. Whilst some participants recognised psychological trauma as a problem requiring support, they were often not currently in a stable enough situation – practically or emotionally – to pursue support. This points to the need to be able to address victimisation and trauma in conjunction with other pressing concerns, as part of a holistic approach to justice, or indeed a broader trauma-informed approach to public policy. This would involve recognising the disproportionate exposure to and cumulative impact of trauma on marginalised groups, incorporating adverse childhood experiences and trauma in adulthood.

Stakeholders in prison throughcare support organisations and participants with convictions for serious violence raised important contributions about the lack of support for dealing with the traumatic impact of perpetrating violence:

Quite a lot of the individuals that we work with suffer quite horrendous flashbacks and PTSD [linked to their index offence]. Not all my staff are qualified to work with that and we do provide as much training as we can to help individuals, but more and more people were presenting with PTSD diagnoses and really quite extreme mental health. (Throughcare manager, West Urban)

I still think about stuff that I've done now when I'm lying in bed like that, how lucky certain situations if I'd actually got to that point that night, I could potentially be doing life the now or some sort of heavy sentence or somebody could have lost their life. […] I couldn't tell you the last time I actually slept through a full night without waking up. I can go through a couple of weeks of sleeping fine and then for a few months I'm up sometimes two or three times a night and then some nights I'm covered in sweat. (24-year-old man, West Urban)

It's that thing- (PAUSE) When you cause a- With my crime, I destroyed all sorts of families. So, then that's had an impact on all them. Maybe this is selfish what I'm going to say but it also has a heavy impact on you, but obviously that family and then that boy's lost his life as well. So, it's all that as well and then, at the end of the day, the perpetrator, i.e., me, has got to live with that for the rest of their life. The demons of that. (45-year-old man, West Urban)

Exclusion from services

Participants described ways in which they were excluded from support services through systemic or structural inclusion/exclusion criteria and rules which prevented them from accessing appropriate services at the time of need.

As discussed in Chapter 3, many people were diagnosed with mental health conditions because of their trauma, and many more self-diagnosed conditions to help make sense of their response to trauma, lacking timely access to formal psychiatric or psychological support. Formal diagnoses were sometimes required in order to access counselling:

I was getting very vivid flashbacks of the guy coming at me, me fighting him and any time I would get a fright from behind me, I was reliving it all and everything. So I asked a lot of people to see if I could get counselling and both Victim Support and the NHS told me that they couldn't provide trauma counselling until at least six months after the event because, apparently, you can't get a diagnosis of proper PTSD until six months after because in the immediate aftermath of the incident, it's just considered to be like shock or something. […] Six months later I'm in a bad place still but whatever, I'm trying to move on with my life, etc, etc. But when I really needed the counselling was like right then and it was kind of like Victim Support were only willing to help me get immediate counselling if I was say, like, suicidal or something. And I wasn't suicidal, and I would never infer that. (26-year-old woman, West Urban)

Participants experiencing complex trauma from their experiences of violence risked being excluded from statutory services, including mental health and addiction, due to overstretched public services where in some cases, caseloads were very high or in other cases people were deemed too challenging to engage with:

You look at the issue with the drug treatment system, like a care manager will have 90 clients on their caseload. Now, you cannot work with 90 clients. You cannot see 90 chaotic people in one week. It is nearly impossible for you to do that. So, what's happening is those 90 clients are getting neglected. So, there's negligence right across the board here, whether it's coming from social work, criminal justice, addiction, education, right across the board. We're missing so much and, again, we're so disjointed. (Throughcare manager, West Urban)

It's just really difficult because some of the guys might have severe trauma and stuff that is really disturbing them when they're on their own and it's like the crisis team will give them a phone call [but] they have to be referred from the addiction service. […] I find we seem to get a lot of guys that statutory services find it difficult to engage with and for whatever reason it is, I don't know. (Throughcare worker, West Town)

Exclusion based on substance use was highlighted as a particular issue in statutory support services, especially mental healthcare services, which were said to operate through the hierarchy of competing needs rather than seeing the person as a whole:

Dual diagnosis is a big problem for people. What I'm finding in [West Town] is people, if they've got an addiction problem but they've also got a mental health problem, they won't see them both, they won't treat them both at the same time. The addiction service has to deal with them, or they have to be stable to be assessed for mental health. It's just a nightmare. A lot of the guys have got both going on at the same time, so they're finding it really hard to actually get an appointment to be assessed for their mental health if they've got an addiction problem. (Throughcare worker, West Town)

Homelessness and housing insecurity were also identified as barriers to accessing support, for example, trauma counselling, which requires participants to be physically and psychologically safe:

I had broke up with my partner eventually. Had nowhere to go. Stayed [at a homeless hostel] for a night. Ended up back at my mum's and then I went to my appointment at [Sexual Abuse Clinic] and she was like, 'I can't even do any therapy work if you're staying in that house. You were staying in that same room that your abuse happened. I can't do any work with you; I need to find you somewhere to stay cos you need out of there.' (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

Two participants also discussed their exclusion from accessing criminal injury compensation. In both cases participants were met with different bureaucratic criteria which prevented them from accessing this fund, reinforcing the idea that their victimisation mattered less or that they were not a 'proper' victim:

They would only offer actual compensation if you had lasting physical disfigurement. So, I had to also talk to people on the phone about it, who were [asking] 'Are you physically disfigured from this?' And I was like, 'No but I'm pretty traumatised, honestly, I'm really struggling to sleep'. […] The process of me applying for it, because of the limited nature of it all, it almost just made me feel like, 'Oh, well I'm not really that much of a proper victim or something because I'm not entitled to any of this real compensation'. (36-year-old woman, West Urban)

I never got a claim cos I've got a criminal conviction. I never got any compensation […] See if somebody stabs me today, I'd get nothing; I don't know what that's all about but I've not got any violence on my record. It's theft and dishonesties, no violence, no GBH or anything and that's what they said. (49-year-old man, West Rural)

Funding challenges and service gaps

When reflecting on barriers to accessing support, stakeholders highlighted that support service provision gaps, as well as the short-term and competitive nature of funding, disproportionately impacted key groups within already marginalised communities.

As previously discussed in Chapter 3, stakeholders working with children, young people, and families within areas impacted by high levels of socio-economic deprivation highlighted the impact of public service funding cuts and the closure of public spaces and services catered toward children and young people. They also discussed the unequal footing grassroots and small organisations have when competing with far larger organisations and statutory bodies for funding, and a sense of injustice that larger organisations do little with the funding they receive:

We did a mapping exercise in this area and had a look at like what's on offer for young people. So, we know this area, there's issues with young people coming all the way through from five [years old], all the way through. And this area again, like it's the largest majority of youth funding per capita in [East Urban] than anywhere else. Like we get loads of youth money for the youth work provisions in this area; I think we get more than anywhere else in [East Urban] and we've got some of the shittest youth provisions in the city. (Youth service manager, East Urban)

Particularly within the context of austerity and increased inflation, when less funding is available, stakeholders felt that important preventative work had been de-prioritised:

The thing that really bothers me is that early intervention services across the board, they're the services that are impacted first. So statutory services have to be funded because they're statutory. Anything that's non-statutory, if somebody needs to cut a budget, that's what goes and nobody seems to have the political will to actually make funding available beyond an election cycle. And I think that's really short-sighted and missing the most important opportunities to assist people to develop different understandings about relationships, about violence, about strategies around meeting your needs in a healthy way and developing goals in your life. (Social worker, West Rural)

Young people […] are getting involved in more risky behaviour and those risky behaviours we were then able to try and counterbalance with trips and residentials and things like that, but we physically can't do that because the funding isn't there and available anymore. (Youth service manager, West Urban)

I think it's going to get worse as well just now where we're now going through budget cuts, like the whole of Scotland is. But young people have already lost so much, especially during the pandemic and then they were getting money pumped in to help sort from the pandemic but it's only very small pockets of funding. But it was very restricted in what they could do as well. (Local authority community development worker, West Town)

Stakeholders based across all sectors in Rural communities discussed the impact of disproportionate geographic resource distribution and the unique challenges of life in Rural parts of the country, which often relied on extremely limited bus services which prohibited access to services:

Well, one of the issues in [West Rural] I think particularly is the lack of transport, so that is definitely a barrier to accessing support from services. There's no question about that. There is actually no train, for example, from [West Rural] to [West Urban]. It's buses and you're lucky – it might be one bus a day, for example. I think from [West Rural] to [West Urban], I think there's one bus a day. So if you need specialist services at [Hospital] relating to injuries received or some sort of support service in [West Urban], then yeah, there's a bus. It's pretty dire. […] And there's lots of areas where there's no public transport. None. (Social worker, West Rural)

As discussed further below, this entrenched socio-economic disparity as people seeking support in Rural areas had to cover private travel and public transport costs. The unequal access to support services in Rural areas compared with more accessible and Urban areas was said to create further harm, for example, self-medicating when mental health services were unavailable:

Then they become disillusioned, as you would expect, and they learn to manage it in ways that are not healthy for them, if they learn to manage it at all. Self-medicating, acting out, all sorts of behaviour. Like the suicide rate in [West Rural] is enormous and I'm not laying that all at the feet of the mental health services but obviously it's going to impact. So certainly in- Definitely in the [West Rural] area particularly, there's a global lack of services, it's not just mental health, it's all the other support services that are really, really important. (Social worker, West Rural)

Only one stakeholder discussed the limited uptake of remote victim support services in a Rural community. The impact of post-Covid digital fatigue among Rural communities meant that people were less willing to discuss their victimisation and traumatic experiences online or in their own homes:

If you've been a victim of a crime, you are eligible for a referral to Victim Support. The people who I've interacted with say in the last year when I was in response shifts, a lot of folk wouldn't accept it maybe cos they don't know what it is or it's over a phone or it's on the internet. People want to speak to people face-to-face, especially after the pandemic. And it's great in some respects that you can just click up Microsoft Teams and I can speak to my inspector sitting in [West Rural], which is great. But when it comes to things like that, especially when folk have maybe been through kind of quite traumatic experiences, they want to speak to somebody face-to-face as opposed to over an iPad. (Police officer, West Rural)

The lack of privacy or anonymity associated with smaller populated areas was also discussed as a specific challenge of accessing support in Rural communities, for example one participant highlighted feeling too ashamed to access mental health support given her familial connections:

When I did seek intervention, it was very difficult especially in [East Rural] […] My mum [family member] was really high up in the mental health sector in [East Rural], she didn't want it to be – so there was a bit of shame in it as well. (41-year-old woman, East Rural)

Another participant highlighted that this lack of anonymity also created security issues for women escaping domestic violence, as emergency refuge sites and scatter flats had been identified:

We do have Women's Aid but the homes, the Women's Aid centre is a known now, they've been about for a while. (45-year-old woman, West Rural)

Finally, stakeholders working with migrant communities, including refugees and people seeking asylum, highlighted various barriers faced by their communities in terms of accessing support services. For example, language barriers, where English was a second or other language, and lack of outreach to or communication with migrant communities:

I think language and literacy is really important because even if the service is open to people that can be supported, they don't necessarily always have the literature or the means to communicate the services to the public. So there's a bit of a failing on the [victim support] organisations there as well. (Housing worker, West Urban)

Some stakeholders were concerned about cultural barriers, including a sense of resignment to the lack of support or acknowledgement of victimisation, trapping people in cycles of violence and social harm. The following excerpt is from a stakeholder working with refugees and asylum seekers:

I think it's become normal – normalisation. I call it normalisation of being a victim, it's normal for these people. It's part of their life. […] Trauma every day, like being hopeless. Hopeless in terms of there is no other solution, this is what it is, this is my life, I'm stuck with this, but they carry on for years. (Mental health worker, West Urban)

A stakeholder working with the Roma community in West Urban stressed that this group were extremely stigmatised and subjected to racist discrimination, making them feel deeply disenfranchised:

I just want to really stress though like the sense of lack of entitlement and rights is so huge. Just if you imagine that there is no sense of entitlement – that's where you've got to start. […] There's such a lack of knowledge of personal rights but just no sense of empowerment or no sense of entitlement in any way. […] They expect nothing and often get nothing; that's why the exploitation happens. (Housing worker, West Urban)

These entrenched forms of systemic and social exclusion make marginalised migrant communities especially vulnerable to further exploitation, institutionalised harms, and broader forms of violence – pointing to the need for further research designed with the specific needs of this group in mind.

Financial burden

Structural inequalities around service provision, availability, and eligibility created profound barriers to accessing support. Very few participants in this study had the financial means to access private sources of support, specifically counselling services. A small number of participants felt forced to do this due to the exclusionary rules around medical diagnoses, lengthy waiting times, or lack of availability in Rural areas. These participants struggled to make ends meet to cover the costs, particularly due to precarious employment and caring responsibilities:

I am in counselling, trauma counselling. It was once a week, but I had to change to once a fortnight because coming to work, looking after kids, cos I was off work [on sick leave] for eight months. (45-year-old woman, West Rural)

The only counselling I'd had any time around this was that I had an old talk therapist that I had from years ago […] but I couldn't really afford to get her. One thing that really fucked me about the whole experience is that the [incident] happened right at the end of a precarious contract and, honestly, they were all just like, 'Sorry', you know, I mean, like, 'Tough shit', and like, 'Off you go'. So, the month right after – the month right after the [incident], I had to jump right back into my backup job of [hospitality], which was harrowing. And that was when I'm like coming into contact with a lot of strangers, all that was very, very difficult. But I used a bit of that money myself to pay for my own one or two sessions with my old therapist. But I was honestly just like, I can't afford this now, I've not got a job. So, I've got to just try and cram this all into one session. (26-year-old woman, West Urban)

Precarious employment and the cost-of-living crisis were also noted as barriers to accessing support services in Rural areas due to the cost of public or private transport to get to there:

One of the issues as well is the distance that some people are having to travel to actually access the programmes […] The recent and ongoing cost of living rises is going to impact on people's ability to even further access support services, particularly in the rural areas. (Social worker, West Rural)

Stakeholders identified that the financial burden of reducing or avoiding repeat victimisation often fell on victims, who may lack the financial resources to be able do so:

For people that we work with, they will remain in that community, they won't move, they don't have the financial means to move, so they don't migrate, they will remain there. So that same person's going to know where they stay if they're a witness or just if they're aware if they've got a grudge against them or anything like that, they'll always become a victim of that person and of that crime as well. (Youth service manager, West Urban)

The issues with domestic violence and escaping domestic violence is reliance on finances, reliance on support networks and these are obviously decisions that victims have to make to potentially cut themselves off from all these things and it's a major issue. So, I think albeit there's support available, it's perhaps more difficult in a rural area because it means a massive change in lifestyle and help. (Police officer, West Rural)


This chapter has explored participants' experiences of the criminal justice system and accessing support, including the police, courts and statutory Victim Support. Only a very small number of participants had reported experiences of victimisation to the police, and fewer still had their cases taken forward to court by the procurator fiscal. These participants reported dissatisfaction with their treatment, framing their experiences in terms of examples of secondary victimisation. This contributed to a lack of faith in formal systems. Interaction with victim support services was also low, linked to perceived and actual exclusion linked to drug use and previous convictions.



Back to top