The survivor stories presented here were developed from in-depth interviews and arts-based workshops undertaken with some of the participants in the Scottish Government funded Justice Journeys research project. This project explored male and female rape and sexual assault survivor experiences of the criminal justice process and it culminated in the publication of the report, Justice Journeys: Informing policy and practice through lived experience of victim‐survivors of rape and serious sexual assault, in August 2019. In this research, and our earlier Evaluation of the Rape Crisis Scotland National Advocacy Project, survivors shared with us their remarkable stories of their journeys into, through and beyond the criminal justice process. During these projects it became clear to us that those we interviewed had much to say about their lives and their experiences with and beyond their encounters with the criminal justice system.
In bearing witness to these stories, we began to talk about how these experiences could best be heard and by whom. As academic researchers, written reports and articles are familiar to us. In beginning to explore more creative and visual ways to represent survivor accounts we moved into territory that was unfamiliar and daunting, but that also felt important if these accounts were to reach a wider audience.
This project has taken far longer that we had anticipated. We are therefore very grateful to each of our participants for their remarkable patience in sticking with the process and for sharing their experiences with us in open-ended, lengthy interviews; participating in arts-based workshops and portrait sessions; and working hard to condense their accounts to manageable lengths. That these survivors then took the lead in suggesting and offering images for representation, and in some cases, went on to produce creative artefacts of their own accord, however, is a highlight of the project. In truth, the work of Justice Journeys: Survivors Stories is that of the women who took part. This project simply offered them a space tell their stories, in their own words, and in their own way – something, we came on to learn, the criminal justice system denied them at many turns.
The collective efforts of the women who took part in this project serve as a powerful and necessary reminder of a transformative form of justice that is possible where subjugated voices emerge amidst the din of dominant justice discourse. This cannot be the only justice response, but it is an important one, nonetheless.
The Justice Journeys: Survivor Stories Project is coordinated by Michele Burman, Lisa Bradley and Oona Brooks-Hay at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow. The project website was designed and created by Lisa Bradley. We would also like to thank Mhairi Bell-Moodie for her valuable assistance with photography.
The Justice Journeys: Survivor Stories Project has received funding from an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account at the University of Glasgow. The initial report, Justice Journeys: Informing policy and practice through lived experience of victim‐survivors of rape and serious sexual assault, was funded by a Scottish Government, Justice Analytical Services grant.
Click here to go straight to the Survivor Stories.