01 Mar 2018

National project provides ‘life-changing’ advocacy work to victims of sexual violence


An innovative support service for victim-survivors of rape and serious sexual crime in Scotland has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those accessing the service.

Researchers from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) were tasked with evaluating Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Advocacy Project (NAP). The service funded by the Scottish Government and launched in February 2016 aims to improve the experiences of those engaging with the criminal justice process.

During its first 18-months, a total of 991 victim-survivors accessed the National Advocacy Project with the majority (69%) coming into contact after making a report to the police and 25% doing so before involving the police.

Researchers found that of those who had received advocacy support prior to any police report, almost two-thirds (62%) went on to make a report, suggesting that victim-survivors felt supported enough to engage with criminal justice.

Researcher Dr Oona Brooks-Hay, who is based at the University of Glasgow, said: “Victim-survivors we spoke to say the service has been life-changing and invaluable.

“We know from years of previous research that manoeuvring through the criminal justice process as someone who has experienced a serious sexual crime can be a fraught and confusing experience.

“What we found was that the advocacy workers were able to help victim-survivors throughout that process and bring back some sense of control and confidence to them.”

Of those accessing support who were interviewed as part of the research, the majority found it to be a positive experience.

Jane: “. . .it’s like somebody between a friend and a lawyer, I suppose . . . just filing in all the gaps between all the different bits of the system where I think . . . you just become another number.”

Lynzey: “This has been invaluable, it’s changed my life, it’s been fantastic.”

Bethany: “to me it’s turned my life around,”

While the service users unanimously reported favourable comments about the service they also offered ideas on how the support scheme could be further developed.

Those providing the advocacy support and those working in partnership with the NAP also provided feedback on their experiences.

Dr Brooks-Hay said: “Close working relationships between the key partners – Rape Crisis, Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service – are key to providing an effective advocacy service to victim-survivors of rape and sexual assault. Our findings indicate that the advocacy project has contributed to improved partnership working and communication between agencies.

“It also provides an important channel for service users’ views about the criminal justice response to serious sexual offences.  This is valuable since their views and experiences can then inform policy and practice developments at a local and national level.”

One stakeholder responded: …”what the Advocacy Project means is that I think we probably have the best overview that we’ve ever had of what the issues are in terms of justice responses to sexual offences. I think that’s helpful because it gives us more knowledge and information to help work with others to make things better.”

Rape Crisis Scotland Co-ordinator, Sandy Brindley said of the research: “This confirms the difference dedicated advocacy workers can make to sexual offence complainers as they go through the criminal justice process. Going through the criminal justice process can be a difficult and at times traumatic experience.

“Overwhelmingly, survivors tell us how important it is to have someone to support them from the start of the process right up to court – if the case gets that far – and beyond. It’s a crucial service and one that everyone should have access to if and when they need it.

She added: “With figures released by the Scottish Government this week showing that only 39% of rape and attempted rape cases which get to court result in a conviction, the need for support throughout the justice process has never been clearer.”

A series of recommendations have been produced including raising more public awareness of the project at national and local levels, providing an accredited training programme for advocacy workers and dedicated funding to help the NAP realise its full potential.

The final report; Evaluation of the Rape Crisis Scotland National Advocacy Project by Oona Brooks-Hay, Michele Burman, Lisa Bradley and Deborah Kyle is now available on the SCCJR website.

On the day of publication the Scottish Government announced £1.7m additional funding would be given to RCS to extend the NAP project. 


Media Contact:

Rachelle Cobain, Communications Officer, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, M: 077525 88406

Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis Scotland Co-ordinator, M: 077641 67501


Notes to Editors:

  1. The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) is a collaboration of four Scottish Universities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Strathclyde). We work with government and communities, academics and individuals to develop and produce research that critically informs policy and practice in Scotland and internationally, and that advances our understanding of the meaning and practice of justice. For more information visit our website
  2. Funding for the National Advocacy Project, secured up until March 2018, provides for 15 local advocacy projects with one FTE Advocacy Worker each, based in local Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland (with the exception of West Lothian where the NAP is housed within the local authority-run Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team). In addition, from autumn 2017, funding was made available for a part-time advocacy worker in both Orkney and Shetland. The work of the local Advocacy Projects is coordinated by Rape Crisis Scotland and overseen by a National Advisory Group comprising representatives from RCS, Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
  3. The final report; Evaluation of the Rape Crisis Scotland National Advocacy Project by Oona Brooks-Hay, Michele Burman, Lisa Bradley and Deborah Kyle is now available on the SCCJR website. A shorter executive summary of this report has also been made available for use as a policy and practice briefing