Que penser de ce texte : How do we make the justice system better for victims? This report offers some solutions


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Supportive, respectful responses from a consistent team of detectives, legal professionals and support workers are key to ensuring victims don’t have a negative and traumatising experience seeking justice, according to a new report being handed to NSW authorities on Monday.

It is the first wide-ranging study of sexual violence victims’ experiences with the NSW justice system in 27 years.

The new report is underpinned by interviews with victim survivors and over a hundred people working throughout the justice system.

The study from RMIT and KPMG, commissioned by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), investigated what contributed to victim survivors of sexual assault having positive experiences versus negative experiences within the justice system to help establish what can be improved.

It puts forward 14 recommendations for change including introducing a NSW Police Code of Practice for Sexual Violence.

It also calls for improved training for police, judicial officers and court personnel to ensure better understanding of the impact of trauma on victims to prevent further harm being inflicted during the legal process.

Victims treated without respect, patience or empathy

Among the hurdles to victim survivors reporting are fears of police and of repercussions from perpetrators, their families and others in the community.

Others told researchers they feared being shamed and blamed by others, including by police who had access to their intimate information.

« I didn’t want to go through the whole standing on the stand and getting called a liar and getting judged because I was drunk and all that stuff, » one said.

« I had sent [the perpetrator] a lot of sexts and nudes … that was a massive barrier … police officers who had never met me had to look at those photos, » said another.

These barriers don’t disappear once someone has reached the reporting stage, especially for those who are Indigenous, disabled, culturally and linguistically diverse, LGBTQIA+ or sex workers.

« I already knew from the get-go I’m going to be dealing with discrimination, right: gay woman, angry lesbian trope, » said one interviewee.

« The police [in my area] are known to be racist. »

« She was told she was not a credible witness because of her disability, » said a worker from a women’s health centre who contributed to the study.

Strained system causing distress

Lead researcher Elena Campbell, associate director of RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice, said her team’s report highlights how a strained system puts victim survivors through even more pain.

« The interview participants were all saying the same thing, that the system is pretty overwhelmed and that victims, survivors of sexual assault, are not put at the centre of the process. »

A woman with curly black hair standing in front of a corrugated wall.

Lead researcher Elena Campbell says the justice system puts victims through more pain.

« People come out of that experience not just retraumatised, which is a commonly used term, but having experienced, in the words of one of the participants, a whole new trauma from which they doubt that they’re going to recover. »

Just one of the 34 victim survivors interviewed for the study had an overall positive experience with law enforcement.

Interviewees described the distress caused by being unable to access information and support, sometimes while being treated as though they were lying.

« I… had a police officer say to me, ‘well, you were a dude, why didn’t you just knock him out’, » one said.

« [The police officer said] ‘what have you learned from this?’ and I felt a bit kind of taken aback because it was like, what? What am I supposed to have learnt from this? » said another.

These experiences have contributed to researchers recommending the Code of Practice to standardise a trauma-informed approach to investigating allegations of sexual assault.

« Once they come forward, it’s absolutely crucial that they feel that they’re treated with respect and dignity and sensitivity and that they have support with them, » Ms Campbell said.

If all recommendations are enacted, the code would be accompanied by training for police and court personnel to improve their understanding around issues such as the impact trauma has on memory and behaviour.

Getting it right

Ms Campbell says currently those having positive experiences reporting to police are in the minority, but this research has highlighted what can be done to make that better.

« There were some victims, survivors who took their matter forward and did receive a really positive response, they had really respectful, sensitive, kind responses from police, » she said.

Victims described these approaches as helping them feel supported and safe.

« [The detective] was very calming and didn’t stand over me … [he just] sat down and listened to me and he was very patient, didn’t talk over me … just really calm and not intimidating at all, » one said.

« They still found the time to be invested in the case and really, seriously want justice for me and for the other girls, that was just so powerful. »

But Ms Campbell says a big issue is that those approaches are not consistent across the process.

« You might have a sympathetic or kind response at the front desk, but then you might have a response lacking empathy or really dismissive or blaming or judgemental from somebody else down the line … you might have somebody who doesn’t follow up, who doesn’t get back to you, » she said.

« What’s important is for victim survivors to feel remembered and cared for and like they have a voice. »

« But too often the kind of churn of the system means that that doesn’t occur and a decision is made and they’re informed later or informed without any kind of care or consideration about how they might experience that set of matters going forward. »

The team has recommended the establishment of a model to connect victim survivors with a consistent source of support from disclosing to the trial process.

Alternative options

Researchers heard from those who said NSW’s Sexual Assault Reporting Option (SARO) also had helped when they had been unable to report their assaults to police.

The SARO is an online form that victims can complete if they do not want to speak directly to police but want them to know they have been assaulted.

The process does not constitute a complaint or trigger an investigation, but can be kept on record if the alleged perpetrator is accused of other offences.

But support during the process is still essential, according to those who were interviewed.

« It was easier than sitting in front of a cop, funny that, it was still pretty hard though, » said one.

« If they actually get charged [with something else] then it’ll come out, I did it that way because it’s a family member. »

A staff member from NSW Health said: « SARO helps clients deal with their sense of terrific responsibility [to protect others from the same harm. »

Among the recommendations is a call for the NSW government to explore developing a Restorative Justice Service led by victim survivors.

Executive director of BOCSAR Jackie Fitzgerald said such a service could take many forms.

« The idea here is that you look beyond the criminal justice system for an alternative system, and it might not be a conviction, a criminal conviction, but possibly some kind of mediation where a victim can get some satisfaction outside that traditional justice approach, » she said.

« It is worth considering putting that on the table and looking … beyond the system that we already have, which doesn’t seem to be working. »

Protecting others a key motivator for complaints

Almost all participants in the study said that one of the main things that drove them to report was to protect others from going through what they did, or to support another victim survivor.

« I didn’t want my perpetrator to hurt someone else. »

« I was protecting the next woman. »

« I was thinking about future women. »

Almost all of the survivors interviewed for the study were committing their time in some way to increasing awareness of sexual violence, improving the system or supporting others in their situation.

But myths about why victims report these crimes remain widespread throughout the community, which is stopping many from coming forward.

The 2021 latest National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) found that 34 per cent of participants believed it was common for rape complaints to be used to « get back » at men.

And ANROWS’ Chuck Her On A Lie Detector report from 2021 found that suspicion of complainants having a motive to lie about assault was one of the main reasons victims’ reports were not trusted.

Publications sur un propos concordant:

Ces magistrats qui tuent la justice,Le livre .

La Menteuse et la Ville,Le livre .

Photographie/Personnalités/M/Félix-Jacques Antoine Moulin,A voir et à lire. .