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Adequacy of the Contemporary Legal Framework to Avoid Secondary Victimization in the Criminal Justice System in Sri Lanka: Special Reference to Rape Victims

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Abstract

The necessity of providing required and necessary protection for the victims of crime is a matter of concerns in Sri Lanka today. Since 1995, several penal law amendments have been introduced to the legal system to strengthen the law relating rape and provide the justice- including protection- to rape victims. In 2015, the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act No 4 of 2015 (APVCW) enacted with the purpose of ensuring the protection, providing assistance and support to the victims of crime. Even in such scenario, the victims of rape are (re) victimized in the hands of the officials of agencies of the criminal justice system in the country today. Therefore, this study intends to overview the existing substantive law relating to rape and the relevant procedural laws in that regard in order to critically evaluate the dilemmas in those laws which cause rape victims to be re-victimized in the criminal justice process. The paper is mainly based on secondary resources including, domestic penal statutes, international instruments, books, journal articles, web documents, decided cases etc. A brief statistical anlaysis of the offense of rape and observations and opinion of author based on personal interviews conducted with the officials of the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka and rape victims are also included to achieve the objectives of the study.

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It is conceivable that criminal proceedings cause psychological harm to the crime victims involved, that is, cause secondary victimization. To investigate this hypothesis, negative and positive effects of criminal proceedings were investigated, as perceived by 137 victims of violent crimes who were involved in trials several years previously. Trial outcome and procedure variables were measured as potential causes of secondary victimization. Results show a high proportion of victims reporting overall negative effects. Powerful predictors were outcome satisfaction and procedural justice, but not subjective punishment severity, interactional justice, and psychological stress by criminal proceedings. The practical implications of the results pertain to whether victims should be advised to report the crime to the police or not, and to appropriate prevention and intervention measures of secondary victimization by criminal proceedings.
Article
For over three decades in this country, public disquiet has been intermit-tently but vehemently expressed about rape 1 and the way it is handled by the criminal justice system. The principal areas of concern, which will be those considered in this chapter, are the experience of rape victims and their treat-ment by police and courts, the low reporting and conviction rates for rape, and the lenient treatment of rapists. It is felt that too many rapists are being permitted by the police and the courts to evade justice and that those who are convicted receive inadequate sentences. Rape does indeed pose a series of problems for the criminal justice system but the emphasis upon some of them is occasionally misplaced. The cry for harsher penalties, for example, can sometimes eclipse analysis and discussion of the very real plight of the victim. Th e Vi c t i m ' s E x p e r i e n c e (a) The Experience of Rape Individual accounts by victims of the physical and mental suffering which they have endured as a result of rape have formed a vital ingredient of the discourse on the subject. 2 Their reports are borne out by studies which confirm the existence of a rape trauma syndrome. According to Burgess and Holmstrom: 'This syndrome has two phases: the immediate or acute phase, in which the victim's lifestyle is completely disrupted by the rape crisis, and the long-term process, in which the victim must reorganise this disrupted 1 In the footnotes to this book, titles which appear in the Select Bibliography are in Harvard style; others appear in full. On rape generally and why it is committed, see e.g.
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