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Durham University

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Today’s recommendations on rape care don’t go far enough, says former chair of Rape Crisis

(15 March 2010)

Recommendations in today’s Stern report on rape and the criminal justice system are “still not good enough”, warns a leading expert.

Although Dr Nicole Westmarland from Durham University, a former chair of Rape Crisis (England and Wales) said the report was a “great step forward” she calls for a wider set of recommendations. 

She also calls for the UK Government to support a Rape Crisis campaign in England and Wales to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the crime.

A review on the support and care of rape victims, authored by Baroness Stern, was published today.  Dr Westmarland was part of a team of academics who contributed to it.

Dr Westmarland, a lecturer in criminology at Durham University, said: “In today’s Stern report there have been a range of improvements made to how the criminal justice system deals with rape. Rape victims today who report to the police will receive a better response than they ever have done before.

“However, this ‘better response’ is still not good enough – the Worboys and Reid cases in London demonstrate this all too well.

“I do welcome the improvements that Baroness Stern makes in terms of making sure that cases like this are never allowed to occur again through a greater emphasis on intelligence-led policing.  All too often rape is just dismissed as ‘one person’s word against another’s’ because a thorough investigation has not taken place.  Evidence collection and management must be improved.”

She said the recommendations on victim care were a great step forward, but added: “Good victim care needs to go further than simply having more independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs) and we need a widespread shift in how rape victim survivors are treated by everyone they come into contact with.

“This includes specialist workers such as ISVAs and other Rape Crisis staff but also professionals such as GPs, teachers and police officers.

“This is why attitudes must change in society as a whole and why Government in Westminster should support a Rape Crisis campaign in England and Wales just as the Scottish Government have supported the Rape Crisis Scotland campaign.

“I welcome the recommendation that education and attitude changing campaigns are designed and rolled out across England and Wales. It is essential that these are funded properly by the government rather than having the piecemeal approach that is currently in place.

“We have known for a long time that prevention and changing attitudes are vital in reducing rape – it is time that some proper financial support is put into turning these recommendations into practice.”

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