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Tuesday, 03 June 2014

Report: Engagement with victims of rape and sexual offences

Written by The Editorial Team

An article examined the role of specially trained officers (STOs) in providing services directly to victims of rape and sexual offences, drawing on research in one county in England.

It said that officers were often poorly supported by management and that immediate supervisors did not always view the work as important, leading to tensions in the process. Although ongoing communication with victims was found to be time-consuming, the article said that it was vital and argued that working alongside independent sexual violence advisors could alleviate the workload of STOs, improve communication with the victim, and make outcomes more procedurally just.

Abstract

The specially trained officer (STO) in rape and sexual offence cases performs a vital role in terms of case processing, supporting investigation and providing services directly to the victim of rape.

Despite being regarded as a vital part of the post-assault processing of rape cases, STOs have received scant attention in the research literature.

This paper outlines the experience and importance of STOs in one English county, and highlights that despite the importance of their role, officers are often poorly supported in the management structure.

Individual officers recognise the importance of their role both in terms of victim support and investigation, but report that immediate supervisors do not always share this view, leading to tensions in the process.

The findings also indicate the particularly time-consuming nature of ongoing communication with the victim in cases of rape, but the incredible importance of this communication. It is argued that STOs working in tandem with independent sexual violence advisors would alleviate the burden for STOs, and improve communication with the victim, ultimately contributing to a more procedurally just outcome.