AWARE: Criminal justice amendments will ease the pursuit of justice for sexual assault survivors

AWARE in a statement, voice its support to the move to amend the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and the Evidence Act to enhance protection for complainants of sexual and child abuse offences in investigative and court processes.

“AWARE was keenly involved in providing feedback on some of the proposed amendments, and we are happy to see several of our recommendations reflected in the Bill tabled today,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE.

Based on AWARE’s experience assisting thousands of women through the Women’s Helpline and Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC), many victims of sexual assault do not file police reports or seek support because they are afraid that their personal details will not be kept private.

“The government’s plan to prohibit the publication of the victim’s name will help allay these fears and encourage sexual assault victims to come forward, and safely engage with processes that hold offenders accountable,” said Ms. Lim. To give teeth to this amendment, she adds that the government should proactively prosecute cases of non-compliance when they are brought to
their attention.

The amendments correctly identify that court processes can be intimidating and can re-traumatise sexual assault victims, and attempt to limit both the need for repeated testimonies, and interactions with their assailants. The use of closed-door hearings, video-linked testimonies for victims, and physical screens to prevent direct contact with the defendant, will reduce
victims’ trauma when testifying in court.

“We hope that these options will be offered automatically where appropriate without the need for a specific request,” said Ms. Lim.

AWARE is also concerned about the amendment to allow the video-recording of sexual assault complainants during police interviews. “While intended to capture a full and objective record and reduce repetitions by victims, the presence of a camera can be intimidating. More importantly, victims are often in a traumatised and confused state right after the incident, and are not in a position to give an accurate account of the incident.” said Ms. Lim.

“Reports of sex crimes over the past five years have been rising, and these amendments may further bolster people’s faith in the criminal justice system. We are glad to see that police officers are undergoing victim-empathy training, and AWARE will continue to work closely with the police to better support survivors.”