- Sam Bookman
Proponents of human rights are all too often accused of giving insufficient regard to the rights of victims. Part of this perception lies in the emphasis that human rights advocates place on fair trial rights, and the need to ensure criminal defendants are treated fairly by the court process. Yet, increasingly human rights advocates are turning their attention to the rights of victims and the need to make sure that they are also protected by the criminal justice system.
The urgency of this need has once again been emphasised by the appalling revelations of the “Roastbusters” episode. The media and politicians have expressed shock at police statements that the victims of this alleged behaviour did not come forward. In highly objectionable language, the police claimed that they were simply “not brave enough”. It has revealed what rape prevention advocates have known for a long time: that the spectre of the court process can be, for many victims, tantamount to a “second rape”. Being required to provide a detailed description of highly intimate and stigmatised activities, and having to face an alleged perpetrator in court – who in many cases may still wield significant power over the victim – are understandably traumatising experiences for many people. For this reason, it is estimated that the vast majority of sexual crimes – up to 90% – go unreported.
Without wishing to comment specifically on the “Roastbusters” episode – to do so would be to unnecessarily dredge up distressing material, and compromise possible justice outcomes – this article will examine the difficulties experienced by sexual victims in relation to the criminal justice system, and attempt to draw on some possible solutions. It is acknowledged that this article is limited in its contribution: ultimately, the best-placed voices to address this issue are the victims of such crimes, and this post is in no way intended to drown out those perspectives. Readers are encouraged to explore those contributions further. (more…)