- Sexual violence and the criminal justice system
- DV Bill consultation
- Relationships and sex education
- Universal Credit
Deep concern at justice system’s response to sexual violence
In June EVAW and Rape Crisis responded to the CPS ‘rape review’ report by saying the attention to disclosure failings was missing the bigger picture. We were very disappointed when the CPS yielded to a media agenda and announced a review of all live rape trials in January, despite it being well understood that problems with disclosure of digital evidence occur across many crime types.
New data was made available in May which shows the enormous rise in rape reports over the last five years, and the failure of the justice system to keep pace with this. But the CPS report, and to a large extent the Justice Select Committee’s report on the same subject in July, are missing this systemic injustice as they focus only on a small number of collapsed trials. Even when looking at the detail of disclosure practice, little if any consideration is being given to victims’ right to privacy. We are concerned a coach and horses is being driven through rules about the use of sexual history evidence by disclosure practices which ask complainants to sign away permissions to all personal records and which examine thousands of digital interactions for evidence on ‘character’, ‘sexual preferences’ and credibility. PCC Vera Baird and the Victims Commissioner put it well here.
Meanwhile, renewed attention to ‘upskirting’ is welcome but we hope it leads to legislation which addresses image-based abuse in the round. New laws need ensure different perpetrator intentions are covered and provide anonymity for all victims. We are also concerned about the use of bail in rape cases which needs urgent attention.
Domestic Violence Bill
EVAW made a submission to the Government’s consultation on the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill at the end of March, and provided evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the same issue. We hope new legislation will prioritise support and advocacy for survivors as well as new criminal justice options; hasten the end of the ‘hostile environment’ facing migrant women who are subjected to abuse; and ensure the new Commissioner in this area has a broad Violence Against Women & Girls remit. The importance of ensuring protection works for women with insecure immigration status was highlighted last month in new research by the Asylum Support Appeals Project.
Disappointment at Relationships and Sex Education delay and modest consultation proposals
We were disappointed that the introduction of compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) has been delayed until 2020. A consultation on proposed compulsory guidance for all schools on the subject was published in July and is open until November. EVAW welcomed the proposal to include information about different forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence and harassment, FGM and coercive control in the new lessons. But we are concerned that the plans for primary aged pupils are inadequate and vague on obligations to teach about relationships, respect, boundaries and the law. We urge supporters to read and make a submission. EVAW will share our submission in early Autumn.
Universal Credit – not suitable for all households
In June we published a briefing on how Universal Credit risks increasing women’s vulnerability to financial abuse with members Women’s Budget Group and Surviving Economic Abuse. We will meet cross-party MP’s to discuss reforms to universal Credit for women experiencing domestic violence at a parliamentary event this autumn.
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