Social workers concerned over police inaction on rape victim

Maltese Association of Social Workers reiterates the importance of a victim-focused criminal justice system after rape victim ignored by police for over 12 months

file photo
file photo

The Maltese Association of Social Workers (MASW) has expressed "deep" concern over reports that an alleged rape victim has had to wait over a year to be heard by the police.

"Cases like this demonstrate the importance of having a victim-focussed criminal justice system. The #MeToo movement made it clear that society needs a culture where victims, especially women and children, are given a space to be heard," the association said in a statement on Monday.

This was in reaction to a Times of Malta story claiming that a woman who was brutally raped for almost an hour has been waiting for over a year to tell the authorities her story. According to the report, the woman was raped in June 2020; the police have yet to interview her. 

MASW said that social workers consistently advocate for victims to be given a voice and to be listened to by authorities. "Unfortunately, cases such as these do the exact opposite and create more barriers for victims to speak," the association said.

The association applauded the police for the creation of a Victims Support Unit. However, it maintains more needs to be done. "while the criminal justice system has to take its course, this is a situation where justice delayed is justice denied. MASW hopes that this case is investigated without further delay and that the alleged victim is interviewed." 

MASW said the failure to do the latter would most likely cause the victim to re-live the trauma in her mind, which causes immeasurable damage. The association said the criminal justice system needed to develop a victim-centred approach, have a more effective support system, and more timely investigations. 

"Such situations have a severe negative impact on the credibility of the whole system, which is a massive barrier for current and future victims to speak up and report." 

The Malta Women's Lobby denounce the indifference shown by the police

In a statement on Sunday, the Malta Women's Lobby said it denounced the indifference shown by the police in this case.

"The Malta Womens' Lobby said that whilst it thanked the members of the force who assisted the victim during the attack, inaction by the Police force after such a lengthy period is unacceptable in today's society and should be addressed appropriately to ensure that this inaction does not foster a sense of impunity on perpetrators and aggressors."

The lobby reiterated that action by the police and help services should always be victim centred and work to protect the victim.