Sensitizing criminal justice systems
Sensitize legal and justice systems to the particular needs of women victims of violence.
All those in the criminal justice systems (police, investigators, medico-legal staff, lawyers, judges, etc.) should be trained and sensitized to consider and address the particular needs and priorities of abused women, particularly those faced with violence by a partner or ex-partner. Those investigating allegations of violence against women should be trained in using medico-legal evidence gathering techniques, particularly in allegations of rape and sexual assault, in a non-judgemental and respectful manner. Gathering this evidence should be part of a comprehensive package of care, including counselling and relevant treatment.
Criminal justice systems as a whole need to be assessed comprehensively to ensure that women seeking justice and protection are treated appropriately and professionally. Those administering the criminal justice system, especially police, should not undermine women complainants by taking the side or the perpetrator, or by disbelieving or denigrating complainants. Ideally there should be support for women bringing complaints.
Laws on assault often assume that perpetrator and victim do not know each other, a pattern that applies less often when considering violence against women. Women may retain bonds of affection towards a partner despite his violence, and imprisoning the partner may jeopardize the livelihood of the woman and her children. A coordinated approach between the criminal justice system and appropriate civil law protection, is necessary to ensure that women’s safety is paramount. Furthermore, those convicted need to be appropriately punished. Flexible sentencing or alternative sanctions should be explored, where possible, to deter further violence.