Justice means different things to all of us. Not every woman wants or is able to seek justice through the courts and justice doesn’t always mean a criminal conviction. It can mean support and recovery, being heard, and seeing action taken to prevent other women from becoming victims.
It is completely understandable to want to see a public figure with power and influence held criminally accountable for rape and sexual abuse – something which is out of reach for the vast majority of survivors. Survivors need to have choice around what outcomes they want to see, and be supported in accessing them. When you’ve experienced a violation of your individual autonomy and control, having this choice can be an essential part of justice and healing.
All of this must happen in addition to fixing our broken criminal justice system so that survivors who want to see a conviction don’t have the odds stacked against them. Currently just 1.3% of recorded rapes result in charges being brought and in recent years, conviction rates plummeted to the lowest on record. We know that rape has been effectively decriminalised and life saving support services are chronically underfunded, leaving survivors waiting years or unable to access support at all.
Survivors going through the criminal justice system face victim blaming from those charged with delivering justice, a system that focuses on their previous sexual history rather than the actions of perpetrators, and myths and stereotypes shape whether or not their case will progress. It’s time for a different approach to sexual violence, one that centres the needs and wishes of survivors and works to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.
Sinead Geoghegan, email@example.com, 07960 744 502