News In Focus
Advocacy support for rape victims to be extended
A pilot scheme to improve the support available for victims of rape as they engage with the justice system is to be extended, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson announced today.
The National Advocacy Project (NAP) was set up with Scottish Government funding in February 2016 to help improve the support available to survivors of rape and other serious sexual crimes, and specifically their experience of the criminal justice process.
The Rape Crisis Scotland-led pilot project, and an independent evaluation whose findings are being published today, also sought to gain a better understanding of survivors’ motivations to proceed or not to proceed with criminal proceedings and the difference that advocacy support makes to such decisions.
In response to the evaluation and recommendations, Mr Matheson has agreed to provide enhanced funding of £1.7m over two years to expand the number of advocacy workers in areas of most demand, and provide additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level.
The funding represents an increase to £861,000 for each of the next two years – up from £560,000 in 2017-18. In addition to continuing funding of 15 full-time advocacy workers in each RCS centre in Scotland, the service will be enhanced by the appointment of additional advocacy workers and additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level.
Mr Matheson said: "Despite an increase in the number of people coming forward in recent years, we recognise that crimes such as rape and domestic abuse continue to be underreported when compared to other types of crime, and that an efficient, victim-centred legal process is an essential part of ensuring necessary support for victims.
"Advocacy services have a key role in helping victims to come forward and engage with the legal process and through this additional investment we can strengthen the support available to victims of sexual crime and help secure confidence in the justice system."
Rape Crisis Scotland Co-ordinator, Sandy Brindley added that survivors of rape had described the support provided by the National Advocacy Project as "life-changing". She commented: "Reporting a sexual offence and going through the resulting justice process can be difficult, and it's crucial that people have dedicated support in place to assist them throughout this process. We are delighted that we will be able to expand the project, to allow us to more fully meet the needs of people through Scotland who have experienced rape or sexual assault."