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Beyond Legislation: Genuine Change In The Interaction Between Victims Of Sexual Crimes And The Criminal Law System

Tzili Paz-Wolk
Published 2015 · Political Science

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This article examines the changes in the encounter between sexual assault victims and representatives of the law enforcement and judicial systems in Israel as perceived by workers and volunteers in the sexual assault crisis centres. After more than four decades of action in legal contexts – from spurring changes in legislation, through the training of professionals within the legal system, up to escorting victims – it is still hard to find studies that describe any change beyond legislation and procedures in the forms that this encounter assumes in Israel and in the world. For the purpose of the study, this interaction was separated from the other aspects of the procedure, observed in depth and, with the interviewees' help, broken down into its relevant components. Data gathered and processed using quantitative and qualitative methods show that, according to the impression of the critical and experienced interviewees, representatives of the legal system truly endeavoured during the first decade of the second millennium to provide victims with better conditions than in the past, encouraging them to speak out in criminal proceedings. As a possible background for the changes in the interpersonal encounter, the article suggests focusing on two mutually related processes, historical but also ongoing. The first is a change in the modes of thought and action in the crisis centres that dealt with this matter and promoted specific changes in the interpersonal encounter. The second process is reflected in the way in which legislators chose to intervene in the interpersonal encounters through four sections in the Rights of Victims of Crime Law. These processes influenced one another and still largely accompany the developments in this sphere, teaching important lessons about change in systems that are not easily amenable to change.
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