If a rape case goes to court, there are many issues about the way a victim can be treated during the procedure. The process can be very stressful for the victim, with their evidence often being treated as sceptical. (cited in Wright. M. Justice for victims and offenders,A restorative response to crime. pg26)
The issue of consent throughout the trial can result in the victims sexual history being brought up, e. g if a women has a promiscuous past, the barrister for the prosecution may use this to discredit the victim (suggesting there is no reason why they said no to the defendant when they said yes to many other people etc) Victims also may find their medical records being used against them in court, to persuade juries that they were suffering from depression, or were of the frame of mind that is more likely to fabricate a false rape story. Many judges do not always protect the victim from improper questioning and barristers may use yes/no questions to put words in the victims mouth.
They may also ask embarrassing, un-necessary intimate questions, such as details of the victim's underwear or about their menstrual cycle. These types of questions could make the victim nervous and uncomfortable, which may result in the jury interpreting this nervousness in the wrong way, believing the story is false. It is argued that the crown prosecution service needs to work with other agencies such as the police, courts and attorneys to try to make the process less stressful. A campaign for more justice in UK rape trials has put forward suggestions for improvements to the sexual offences bill. (www. broadcaster. org.uk/section1/rapecampaign)
They argue that trials would be less stressful for the victim if 1) questions about the victims sexual history were banned, 2)Victims medical records could not be used to persuade the jury it is a false rape claim, unless there is real likelihood of this being the case, 3)Barristers should not be allowed to use the victims actions and behaviour on the day of the attack as a defence, 4) The first person the victim spoke to after the attack should not be the only person allowed to give a character reference, 5) Rapists should always be given prison sentences long enough for them to complete a treatment programme and should reflect the severity of the crime, 6)Lawyers who prosecute and defend in rape trials should be given information about the motives of rape and the effect on victims, 7) Prosecution lawyers should have to meet with the victim to discuss the court case, 8) The law that does not allow a complainant to tell the prosecution of anything she has to say in response to what the defendant or barrister says should be abolished and they should be allowed their own legal representation, 9) The law giving rapists the right to use the defence of mistaken belief in the victims consent should be repealed and 10) Steps should be taken to prevent the victim losing out in court due to myths and prejudices against rape victims that knew their attacker. They also suggest that before court proceedings start a video should be shown dismissing all myths about rape and informing the court about the motives and effects. Although there are many bad practices with the treatment of rape victims, there is also help available for them. Rape crisis centres have been built around the country since 1976, with about fifty at present time. (cited in Wright. M. Justice for victims and offenders,A resotorative response to crime.pg48)
These 'RCC's' are designed to deal with the victimisation of women, which means they differ from the victim support schemes (RSS) The RCC's handle more cases of sexual assault and seem to be better known amongst the public. (cited in Maguire. M,Pointing. J. Victims of crime,a new deal?. pg6) The centre does not try to fit victims into categories as they realise every offence is different. They train some volunteers specifically to work with victims of more serious assault and if the victim wishes to seek a specific type of support it is up to the volunteer to provide this. They train their staff in non-directive counselling techniques and often support the women for a long time. In the year 1996/7 nearly 50,000 women contacted the centres for assistance (cited in Williams. B. Working with victims of crime, policies,politics and practice.pg94)
If the victim decides to go to go to the authorities, the counsellors offer support and often accompany them in interviews and court cases. They also have been known to challenge official agencies to provide appropriate services, as they do not command mainstream political support of their centre. They support the victim's confidentiality and would not report the offence to the authorities if the victim did not wish to. The RCC's fulfil an important function but are not recognised by the state at national level, unlike the RSS's. The Metropolitan police service have set up a campaign called'Sapphire'. (www. met. police. uk/sapphire/advice. htm) This organisation is designed to help rape victims by offering them advice and support. They use experienced, trained officers.
During the interviews they offer the victim a 'chaperone' officer to accompany them. This officer also helps by explaining any procedures they might not understand, contacting a support group if the victim decides they want one, offering to talk the to victims employer and making hospital appointments if they wish to have one. If there is a prosecution against the attacker, the chaperone helps by telling the victim any developments in the case, when the defendant is appearing in court or released on bail and whether these bail conditions would affect the victim, notifying them if they have to appear in court as a witness or if the trial date changes, and telling them the results of the case or if the defendant appealed etc.
They also offer to refer the victim to the crown court witness service, which helps if the victim has to stand up as a witness. If the victim has a medical examination, they are given the choice of a male or female doctor, which has been trained for this type of examination. They want the victim to feel as comfortable as possible and offer a shower or bath afterwards. The officers also offer advice on pregnancy, STI's, and anything else the victim wants to know. Overall, although it appears that there are still bad practices used with the treatment of rape victims, (victims being made to feel like the offender when interviewed or examined etc) there seems to be changes being made.
There is sufficient help available for any victims of rape, such as RCC's etc, but these need to be recognised as an organisation and funded by the government to help them become more widespread. Although there still seems to people in the law enforcements that deal with the victims insensitively, there are also those that are specially trained and act in a professional, appropriate manner. Bibliography Wright. M. 1996. Justice for victims and offenders,A restorative response to crime. second edition. Waterside press Maguire. M,Pointing. J. 1988. Victims of crime, A new deal?. first edition. open university Press Williams. B. 1999. Working with victims of crime,policies,politics and practices. Jessica kingsley publishers ltd.