Supporting victims through the legal process: the role of sexual assault service providers

Assault and battery Sexual assault Victims of crimes Australia

The secondary victimisation suffered by women in sexual assault court cases is well documented and is a factor in women's reluctance to report sexual assault. Over recent years, state, territory and national governments have attempted to minimise the negative impacts of the law. Tasmania, for example, has introduced initiatives to increase access to Legal Aid and court support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The ACT has offered specialist training to police, prosecutors and victim support workers, with new legislation in 2008 providing victims with improved protection during the court process. In NSW, the Attorney-General's Criminal Justice Sexual Offences Taskforce developed 70 recommendations on ways to improve the responsiveness of the criminal justice system to victims of sexual assault.

These government initiatives affirm a general awareness that women's experience of the criminal justice system must improve if more women are to pursue justice through the courts.

This publication examines one initiative to improve women's experience the criminal justice system through the provision of support for victims throughout the process. It is informed by consultations with sexual assault counsellors who have worked extensively in helping women navigate the legal system, and by other key informants. It draws on their expertise to distil strategies for effective practice.

The case studies at the end of this publication illustrate a range of initiatives designed to improve justice outcomes for victims of sexual assault.

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