The police department of northeast Iceland has recently launched a pilot experiment in the hopes of improving the assistance provided to victims of sexual abuse, RÚV reports.
The project was first made public at a conference on law enforcement and society held at the University of Akureyri, but it has been implemented into the police response policy at the beginning of the year. With the project, the police aim first and foremost at providing psychological help to the victims after they’ve reported an abuse. In addition, they will also found a victim’s assistance centre in Akureyri.
Psychological and legal help
So far the help of a psychologist has only been employed for crimes involving children. By extending the service to survivors of sexual abuse, however, Chief of the Northeast Police Department Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir hopes to prevent the development of chronic psychological diseases that follow the shame, guilt, fear and self-loathing that often accompany the victims after the abuse. “Filing a report is tough, you’re tearing up all the stitches and opening the wound again,” she explains. “It takes a lot of effort so it’s important that people get assistance afterwards.”
In addition to providing psychological and medical assistance, the police have also decided to change the way they notify victims of abuse when the District Prosecutor decides to drop the case. So far, victims have only been notified with a formal letter sent to their home. However, since these letters can be complicated to understand if one is not familiar with the legal jargon, the police have begun to inform the victims in the presence of a lawyer. “This is one of those moments when you want to have a professional with you to assist you,” Halla says. “We’ve therefore decided to do this in the presence of a legal representative, so that once we present the letter the plaintiff and the legal counselor can discuss the matter together.”
We all have to do our part
For this project, the police have partnered up with the Health Care Institutions of North Iceland, which will be providing the psychologists, as well as with the University of Akureyri Research Centre, which will be following the experiment for research purposes. Although this pilot project is only supposed to last a year and is so far regionally bound, the police hope to receive the help of the government in funding a new victim’s centre similar to the one in Reykjavík. “We all need to check ourselves and the way we deal with this,” Halla says. “What we want is to really listen to the victims and ultimately meet their needs.”