Helping to tackle sexual assault myths

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A campaign to tackle myths around rape has received funding from the Scottish Government.

Rape Crisis Scotland want to challenge common misconceptions about the ways people can respond during and after sexual assault.

The Scottish Government has given RCS £30,000 funding to develop their campaign which will include two short animated films dealing with widely-held perceptions. The campaign coincides with a legal change to the information judges give juries in certain sexual offence trials.

The changes, which come into force later this year, mean judges will give special information to juries when there is evidence of:

○any delay in the victim reporting the offence;

○ a victim not putting up physical resistance to assault;

○ a perpetrator not using physical force in carrying out assault.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Rape has a devastating impact on the victim and we do not want the trauma to be extended into the victim’s experience in the justice system. At a time when victims of sexual offences have increasing confidence in reporting to the police, this new statutory requirement for judges to give jury directions in certain sexual offence cases will make a real difference in ensuring juries approach court evidence in an informed and balanced way.

“The public understanding of sexual assault is changing but myths still exist around the behaviour of victims and perpetrators. We support the work of Rape Crisis Scotland to tackle these wrong beliefs in the public.”

Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis Scotland coordinator, said:“Many survivors tell us that during a rape they froze and were unable to fight back or scream. This is a natural and common reaction, but not one that members of the public will necessarily be aware of.

“It is important to increase public awareness of reactions to rape, and we are delighted that the Scottish Government has provided funding for a public awareness campaign which will support and maximise the impact of the new legislative provisions.

“We also welcome the introduction of jury directions in rape cases as a significant step forward. Providing jury members with factual information on reactions to rape should help to ensure that verdicts in sexual offence cases are based on the evidence presented, rather than being influenced by assumptions about how rape victims will react.”