Incredible Witnesses: Exploring barriers to justice for people with learning disabilities who have experienced sexual violence

Williams, Helen and Jobe, Alison (2021) Incredible Witnesses: Exploring barriers to justice for people with learning disabilities who have experienced sexual violence. In: BSC Annual Conference, 7-9 July 2021, Online. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

People with learning disabilities are at increased risk of sexual violence yet such cases rarely progress through the Criminal Justice System. Given that people with learning disabilities are disproportionately represented but not exclusively studied within the broader research literature on attrition, this project represents an opportunity to address a knowledge gap and to understand barriers to justice for people with learning disabilities who have experienced rape or sexual assault. This work combines expertise from academia, third sector organisations, police, social work and health services in order to explore the criminal justice system in practice.

This paper presents the results of this exploratory qualitative study with particular focus on the conceptualisation of a ‘credible witness’ and the implications of this for people with learning disabilities. We discuss the assumptions of uniformity in risk assessment, communication and understanding that renders the process inherently discriminatory to those with atypical frames of reference. We conclude that the current system heightens vulnerability to sexual violence for people with learning disabilities and consider strategies for future change.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Social Sciences > Criminology
Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: Helen Williams
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2021 12:59
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 12:59
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/13682
ORCID for Helen Williams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4980-0853

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