In this week’s episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, our hosts Danielle and Kathleen share their thoughts on the (CPS) Crown Prosecution Service’s new advice on pre-trial therapy, and the fact that therapy notes may now be used as evidence in rape prosecution trials. While they believe survivors should be able to access support as soon as possible, they argue that personal information could be used to discredit the victim by the defence.
Danielle shared some further comments in Stylist’s article on the recent news:
“Any guidelines which make it more difficult for a sexual abuse survivor to process what has happened to them or enable a further invasion of privacy should strongly be resisted.
Survivors need to be able to access support as soon as possible and prosecuting perpetrators is always secondary to safeguarding their health.
Seeking therapy and addressing trauma takes a lot of bravery. We see many clients who have suffered for years without speaking with anyone, which often only impacts their mental health further, leading to a lifelong impact.
Such guidelines will deter individuals from seeking therapy or being able to discuss freely their experiences in a safe place free from judgment. Successful therapy requires survivors to be open and honest with their therapist.
Successful rape convictions are already at a significant low and these guidelines will only go further to deter individuals from coming forward to report abuse, potentially exposing further victims to unprosecuted perpetrators.
We often see rape survivors’ behaviour, alcohol intake, clothing and personal life scrutinised and that can make them feel that they themselves are on trial.
A rape trial can be a significantly traumatic experience and therefore private therapy records should remain just that. Therapy records will contain private information that may be used to discredit the victim.
Any invasion of privacy and blocked or delayed healing process should strongly be resisted.
A perpetrator has a right to a fair trial and the prosecution have to disclose material that undermines the Crown’s case, but this does not require a fishing exercise of the survivor’s sensitive therapy treatment.
It is also largely open to interpretation when a survivor’s therapy records would be deemed “necessary” or a “reasonable line of enquiry”. Further tighter guidelines should be provided on this.
Overall, it is a balancing exercise and victims need to do what is right for them.”