This policy briefing has been produced as part of the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project. It is funded by the European Union as part of the DAPHNE III programme.
The policy briefing draws on a literature review, a mapping survey and telephone interviews undertaken by the project.
The scope of this policy briefing and the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project is limited to women aged over 16.
Based on evidence from research undertaken as part of the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project, this policy briefing makes a number of recommendations that build on identified good practice and address common challenges. These recommendations are aimed at policy makers within regional and national governments, service providers and professional associations at the national level. International organisations and initiatives, such as DAPHNE III and the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project, also have an important role to play in enabling good practice to be shared between countries.
- Policy makers should recognise governments need to take the lead in addressing sexual assault. Sexual assault is a social, public health and economic problem and while NGOs have an important role to play, meeting the needs of victims of sexual assault is the responsibility of governments.
- Policy makers and service providers should incorporate the aspects of good practice described in this policy briefing in the design and delivery of services for victims of sexual assault.
- Professional associations need to develop and share modules for training staff. This is key to the transferability of specialised services. Training must include technical aspects of service provision, crisis intervention and awareness raising to change attitudes that blame or victimise women. International professional associations can support the sharing of training modules between countries.
- Policy makers need to ensure government led or endorsed major public awareness campaigns are undertaken that challenge rape myths, reduce the stigma of sexual assault and encourage women to seek help. Such campaigns need to build on the experience and activities of NGOs. International organisations and initiatives can support this by sharing information between countries on these campaigns.
- Policy makers and service providers should share learning on new coordinated models of services currently being developed by some countries (including England and Denmark) which are less resource intensive and enable improvements in the uniformity of service quality.
- Professional associations and service providers need to share national protocols on examination, treatment, follow-up and other aspects of case management.
- Policy makers should commission further research to improve understanding of the needs of groups who have particular difficulties in accessing services. These include women who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, sex workers, Muslim women, women from the Roma community and migrant women. National governments and international organisations and initiatives, including DAPHNE III, need to support such research.
- Policy makers, service providers and other organisations need to recognise that prevalence studies underestimate the real extent of sexual assault and that further research is needed to improve understanding of prevalence.
- Methodologies using population-based surveys that count self-reporting should be used as these more accurately reflect victimisation levels than crime statistics based on reports to the police. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes.
- International organisations and initiatives, including DAPHNE III and the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project, need to develop and support networks of organisations and policy makers with responsibility for sexual assault to share experiences with others, both within and between countries and regions.
- Policy makers need to ensure that criminal codes move from traditional rape laws that define rape based on force to those which define it based on consent in those countries where traditional rape laws are still in place.
- Policy makers, international organisations and initiatives, including the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project, need to develop tools for evaluating service effectiveness and accessibility, including those that include sensitive follow-up of victims. This is important because there is currently a lack of evaluation and evidence on the impact and effectiveness of services.
- Policy makers need to ensure that evaluations and research are also conducted in lower resource settings to test the effectiveness of interventions and also identify new evidence in these contexts. National governments and international organisations and initiatives, including DAPHNE III, need to support such research.
- Professional associations and international organisations and initiatives, including DAPHNE III and the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project, need to support networks for collaboration on evaluation and sharing skills for evaluation of sexual assault services.