Baroness Stern’s review into how rape complaints are handled by public authorities has been published today, so I’ve had a quick flick through it and picked out some key points.

“We need to look at rape victims as people who have been harmed, whom society has a positive responsibility to help and to protect, aside from the operations of criminal law. Whether the rape is reported or not, whether the case goes forward or not, whether there is a conviction or not, victims still have a right to services that will help them to recover and rebuild their lives.”

Yes yes yes and yes.

“A good service costs money. Money is scarce and priorities are many. But a good service saves money in the longer term, by preventing many years of ill-health and instability in those who have been victims”

Yes

“Obviously, even in times of austerity, rape must be investigated and prosecuted, and victims cared for. There cannot be impunity for perpetrators of such a serious violent crime. If this is to be done with due regard for economy then we need priorities. What we have learnt from the review suggests to us that care for victims and protection of those who are vulnerable to rape should be a higher priority than it is now.”

Yes

“We are fortunate in this country that since the 1970s we have had Rape Crisis Centres which have provided support and counselling. These were originally for women only, but some now also help men. Their dedicated work over many years to raise awareness of sexual violence against women has led to many of the improvements that we have described in this report. They provide a safe place where victims can go to be supported, listened to and get counselling. Some Rape Crisis Centres run helplines. Others provide victims with information about services they might need to access, such as social housing. They also constitute a ‘voice’ in a local area, speaking up for the victims of rape, being critical when necessary and working with public authorities to ensure their approach is up to the mark.”

Yes they do, and yes we’re very fortunate to have them.

“When we come to dealing with the interaction between the victim, the criminal justice system and all the other essential agencies (such as Rape Crisis Centres) which provide help and support, a major contribution can be made by the provision of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs)”

Yes

“In dealing with rape there is a range of priorities that needs to be balanced. Support and care for victims should be a high priority. The obligations the State has to those who have suffered a violent crime, and a crime that strikes at the whole concept of human dignity and bodily integrity, are much wider than working for the conviction of a perpetrator.”

Yes

It’s disappointing to see then that not one of Stern’s 23 recommendations relates to the need for long term sustainable funding for Rape Crisis centres.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a really positive report in many respects, but bloody hell, talk about a missed opportunity!

Anyway, here’s a link to the full report:

The Stern Review

And the Government’s Interim Response, which states:

“Getting support for victims of rape and sexual violence right is an important element of ensuring the response to rape is effective. We will consider Baroness Stern’s findings on this point carefully.”

Hmmmm.

And here’s some of today’s press coverage:

Rape report: “If the police can’t protect you…who can?”

PC: rape reporting better but myths still exist

Focus on rape conviction rates stopping women coming forward, warns Stern

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