New Group to Fight for Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Skip to content

New Group to Fight for Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights

By Yelena

Judge's gavel
Photo: Legal dispute over judges’ pay has come to an end.

A new organised interest group for sexual assault survivors was established in Iceland yesterday, RÚV reports. The group will fight for shortened case processing times for sexual offences, which can take over two years, as well as less lenient sentencing for convicted perpetrators. Guðný Bjarnadóttir, a survivor herself, decided to found the group after her own experience of the Icelandic justice system.

“The goal of the group is both to educate and to improve the legal status of victims,” Guðný explains. “As it stands today, sexual assault victims are just witnesses and the scene of the crime. It is very strange that such a case can be processed without the victim coming anywhere near it.” The Icelandic justice system assigns victims of sexual offences the status of witnesses in their own cases, affecting their access to case data, for example. “This is just one of the things that needs to be changed,” Guðný stated.

Guðný has criticised the Icelandic police for their handling of her own sexual offence case, which was eventually dropped. While she pressed charges for the offence three days after it occurred, the police did not call in the accused for questioning until five and a half months later. Then, another two years passed until her case was dismissed. “When you went and pressed charges, I found out that you’re just alone, there’s no one to look after you, through the legal system. And that is just unacceptable.”

No suspended sentences

Along with fighting to shorten procedure times, Guðný says the newly-founded group wants to see an end to suspended sentencing (probation) as a punishment for convicted perpetrators of sexual assault. Suspended sentencing, which is fairly common in the Icelandic justice system, means that although a perpetrator has been convicted and sentenced to serve time in prison, the sentence is suspended on the condition that the defendant does not commit another offence during that time period.

In a related case that made headlines in Iceland lately, a man was convicted of intimate partner violence but was not required to undergo any punishment or rehabilitation.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse you can get help by calling 112 or through the 112 webchat. The emergency service in Iceland has a guide to the Icelandic justice system for victims of sexual offences in English.

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