RETREAT – Interview to Prof. Helena Soleto from UC3M

In order to conclude this particular year, we thought to ask Prof. Helena Soleto from Carlos III University of Madrid in order to give us an overview of the two European projects that she is coordinating: FAIRCOM and RETREAT.
The target audience of these projects are women victims of sexual violence in the countries of the European Union.
We know that due to national lockdowns this year, the number of reports of gender-based violence has increased.

1. How has the RETREAT project contributed to improving conditions for women in recent months? What have the partners done in this direction?

Due to RE-TREAT Project, interesting contacts have been established and existing ones were strengthened in order to achieve collective learning on this issue. Many interviewed people were willing to know the answers of other professionals’ groups or what was highlighted in their own professions. Also, possible shortcomings as well as showing great interesting in transferring proposals for improvement. Therefore, encouraging these multidisciplinary meetings of “collective wisdom” has been seen as a key to improve the situation of victims of sexual crimes.
Furthermore, in 2020, different activities and actions have been developed within RE-TREAT Project framework such as the following ones:

  •  Research on treatment of victims of sexual violence in 3 Mediterranean countries (Greece, Italy and Spain). To this end, we have conducted interviews with groups of professionals specialised in the treatment of victims of sexual crimes in Greece, Italy and Spain. In addition, in these countries, an important case-law analysis of judgments concerning sexual violence passed by Supreme Courts, as well as minor Courts, has been carried out. This research has allowed us to identify how the victim is used as a source and object of proof, what type of evidence is admitted or the effect of the testimony given by the victim, among other issues.
    Interviews have also been conducted with victims of sexual offences in order to be aware of their own perceptions and experiences throughout the criminal process as well as the treatment that they have received from the justice system.
    As a result, relevant data has been obtained on the subject matter of research which has been set out in 3 national reports that have already been submitted to the EC and will be published in our website on 2021.
  • Collection of existing good practices in the treatment of victims of sexual crimes throughout the criminal procedure. This work will allow us to develop a Code of Conduct for legal professionals who deal with this type of victims.
  • Moreover, during 2020, several communication and dissemination activities have taken place in both projects. As an example, two newsletters and one press release on the status and progress of the Project have been published. What is more, interesting publications on different topics related to the treatment of victims of sexual violence have been posted on our social networks and website.
  • Finally, all these actions and activities have been organised and planned by RE-TREAT research team through monthly meetings in which these matters were discussed.

2. What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in these first months since the launch of the project? How did you manage to solve them?

The greatest encountered obstacles have been in relation to the reduction of movement due to COVID-19 health crisis and the high level of work of key professionals in the care of victims of sexual crimes. This high workload has been caused not only by the impact of the current crisis on health personnel – who play a crucial role in the care of victims of sexual crimes – but also by the difficulty of adapting the attention to victims from different professionals’ sectors as well as the accumulation of cases that have been reported. This situation has made it difficult to carry out activities and meetings which were planned for these months. It has also made some of the interviews – included in National Reports – difficult to be conducted. In spite of this, the commitment of the people who have participated in this Project has allowed the research team to continue with measures of flexibility both in timetables and in the resources to perform the research work and interviews.

3. What is your wish for the coming year for the two projects?

We hope that the current health situation will improve so as not to relegate this emergency that we are also experiencing in terms of gender-based violence. As we know, both for adult women and child victims, the restriction of social contact can favour the prolongation of violence situations. At the same time, the importance of caring for victims from different professionals’ backgrounds is especially complex in a situation like the current one.
In addition, we are satisfied with the progress that have been made so far in both projects. It was found interesting results in partners’ research – particularly, when putting these results together–. We hope to continue working as we have done up to now, incorporating into our research the conclusions we draw from the activities planned for the coming months.

Finally, we hope to be able to bring about a significant change in the understanding of this kind of crime – from specialisation and gender perspectives–. What is more, it is expected to incorporate more clearly the interests of victims in all phases of the procedure – both pre-procedural and post-procedural–. From these situations, RE-TREAT and FAIRCOM Projects team seeks to obtain meaningful changes also with regard to the compensation of victims of sexual crimes, recognising the deficiencies of each State and feeding on good practices detected.