Today we stand in solidarity with the nine women in Alex Salmond’s sexual assault trial as we find out the verdict is ‘not guilty’ for 12 of the 13 charges, and ‘not proven’ for one charge. Only a small percentage of rape and sexual assault cases in Scotland make it to court and it is important to highlight that the evidence in this case was significant enough to take it to this point.
At the same time, through our work we are aware of the devastating impact that a ‘not guilty’ verdict can have on survivors. Similarly, we are concerned to see that the ‘not proven’ verdict has yet again been used in a sexual assault trial.
The criminal justice system can be a re-traumatising experience for survivors in Scotland: from retelling what happened, to the rape myths so widely accepted in society, the requirement of corroboration, and the ‘not proven’ verdict used disproportionately in cases of rape and sexual assault. Campaigns like the End Not Proven have emphasised the urgent changes needed to improve the experience of survivors going through this process.
Beyond the outcome, this trial has pointed out some serious gaps in the response to sexual harassment incidents in the workplace. It is clear that employers in all sectors, including the public sector, need to do much better at tackling sexual harassment. Effective reporting mechanisms are essential as is the need to ensure that women’s accounts are taken seriously.
The attention captured by #MeToo in recent years has encouraged many women to speak openly about their abuse. However, we know that coming forward is never easy. It takes enormous courage and personal sacrifice to disclose and report abuse, and this burden multiplies when the alleged perpetrator is a high-profile individual.
Today we recognise the determination of the women who came forward —without their voices, this trial would not have been possible.
The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre has a dedicated helpline for women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, in higher education and online. The helpline offers free information and advice on their rights and it is open every Thursday, 5 to 8 pm on 08088 010 789.
Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Helpline is open daily from 6 pm-midnight on 08088 01 03 02.
Monday 2 - 5 pm
Tuesday 6 - 8 pm
Wednesday 11 am - 2 pm
Friday 10 am - 1 pm
Tuesday 11 am - 2 pm
Thursday 5 - 8 pm