“Your Postcode Should not be a Barrier to Justice”

Improving Health Services for Victims of Sexual Assault

An expert group chaired by chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood is being established to drive improvements in the provision of health services for victims of rape and sexual assault. The implementation group will provide the necessary leadership so that Health Boards commit to providing services that better meet the needs of victims.

Welcoming the establishment of the group local MSP Maree Todd, SNP said:

“It is vital that specialist forensic examination facilities for rape survivors are provided in Orkney and Shetland.”

Key priorities for the new group include:

  • Reducing unnecessary delays
  • Addressing situations where victims have to travel unreasonable distances to be examined
  • Issues around the availability of female medical professionals in this area

The group will also carefully consider a report published by HMICS on current arrangements for forensic medical examinations in sexual offences cases, which makes recommendations regarding consistency and standards of support for victims.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said:

“I have seen in my professional career the severe trauma of a sexual assault. It is absolutely vital that victims are not put under further strain by a system that should be serving their best interests.”

“Recent developments in Shetland where GPs have stepped forward to offer their support to setting up a local service offer one example of the sort of progress we want to see nationally. Meanwhile, the HMICS report sets clear priorities to ensure services are transformed to better support victims, recognising they are also patients.”

“It is critical that all partners on the group work together so we can develop a clear and consistent trauma informed service for anyone who requires to undergo forensic examination.”

Responding to delays in Orkney and Shetland particularly, Maree Todd MSP said:

“I believe that the prospect of a couple of days’ travel – initially unwashed and without food and drink – might well prevent a person from reporting the crime. It is completely unacceptable that a person in the Northern Isles should be faced with this dilemma.”

There are already many societal barriers that prevent incidents of sexual assault being reported, and in a remote rural setting there is this additional barrier. Your postcode should not be another barrier to justice.”

The group will ensure Boards are ready to implement new National Standards being developed this year by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. This work will be subject to an eight-week consultation period and we expect the Standards to be published by the end of the year.

A survey of female doctors to find out perceived barriers to undertaking forensic examinations for victims took place last month. Responses are being analysed.

Final membership of the leadership and implementation group is being finalised and is expected to include:

  • Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood
  • NHS board representation
  • NHS Scotland gender-based violence lead Katie Cosgrove
  • Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  •  NHS Education Scotland
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Police Authority
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Rape Crisis Scotland
  •  Scottish Government

The report can be viewed here: HMICS Strategic Overview of Provision of Forensic Medical Services to Victims of Sexual Crime

Orkney Rape Crisis Service contact details

Sexual violence affects more people in our community that we imagine. Confidential support and advocacy for anyone from age 13. Whether recent or long ago. Whether you report or choose not to. We believe you.

Mon – Fri 9.30-4.30pm

Related stories 

‘Orkney Rape Crisis welcomes new campaign to raise awareness of reactions to rape’

Maree Todd MSP:’a victim of rape in the Islands has the same right to access to justice as a victim of rape anywhere else’

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3 replies »

  1. The Scottish Government is in part responsible if they got rid of this irresponsible ethos of trying to save money by centralisation of essential services spending fiscal capital on the big towns and cities .

    Whilst MPs provide little but lip service to the electorate having an I’m all right jack attitude is deplorable.

    Serious crime and the victims of such should be afforded the same services of that of anywhere else and its about time those in government sorted the shortfall

  2. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for.
    The doctors are here, on Orkney and Shetland.
    That people in this situation have to travel, un-washed – still carrying the incident with them – for an examination, is ….barbaric is the word that comes to mind.
    Which century are we living in?

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