What is Operation Soteria, and how will it affect victims and survivors of rape?
This week, Dyfed Powys Police joined 14 other police forces in becoming early adopters of Operation Soteria Bluestone, including Gwent Police, and South Wales Police who piloted the initiative (read their statement here).
So, what is Operation Soteria Bluestone, and how will it affect victims of rape?
Operation Soteria is based on strong, evidence-based academic research about what victims and survivors of rape need from our criminal justice processes, as the current system is not working. Low conviction rates and large numbers of victims withdrawing from the justice process are evidence of a system that has not been fit for purpose. Operation Soteria puts a spotlight on rape and sexual violence, focussing on the specific needs of victims of sexual trauma, and acknowledging that sexual violence is endemic in our society. The criminal justice system needs to play its part in tackling sexual violence in our society and making sure perpetrators are held accountable.
At New Pathways, we’ve always had a good relationship with our criminal justice and policing partners, but Operation Soteria further strengthens relationships between independent, specialist service providers like us, and the police. Policies and procedures are being embedded in everyday practices, including ISVAs being based in police stations with specialist rape investigation teams (RIT). Our ISVAs are independent, impartial and highly trained. Their roles include supporting victims’ rights and empowerment, risk management and liaison with external services, expert advice and guidance throughout the criminal justice process; and wellbeing and welfare, including providing ongoing support and coping strategies.
Our ISVAs are also supporting victims to complete feedback about their experiences with the criminal justice system to make sure they get the chance to truly get their voices heard, and for real feedback and real change to happen. There is an ISVA framework that sets out formal relationships and partnership working between police and ISVAs, with the aim to make sure that victims are included in communications and decisions throughout the process, including after a trial or if the case doesn’t go to trial.
“We have been working alongside partners South Wales Police who piloted this initiative in Wales, and we welcome the news that it is being extended to all police forces in Wales. We hope to see true change from this initiative. To achieve this, the approach needs to be long-term, consistent, resourced and include tangible actions that make real difference.” – Sarah Thomas, Head of Sexual Assault Services.
If you have been affected by rape, sexual abuse or sexual assault, New Pathways can support you. We have a range of support and advice available, whether you choose to report to the police or not, and no matter how long ago it happened. We will listen, we will believe you, and we will support you through your options and finding the best possible support. Find out more: www.newpathways.org.uk