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Loughborough research features in international guidelines on the investigation of sexual violence in conflict

A Loughborough University psychologist has provided expert guidance to the Government for its international protocol on the investigation of sexual violence in conflict.

The protocol is designed to help strengthen the evidence base for bringing perpetrators to justice, thus overcoming one of the key barriers to tackling impunity for sexual violence in war-torn regions.

Dr Heather Flowe provided advice on the latest state-of-the art techniques for preserving and protecting witness/victim memory evidence, a crucial element in securing a conviction.

She explains: “Victims of sexual violence will face interviews on multiple occasions by investigators with varying skill. If a case is prosecuted the victim’s memory will be put on trial, and if there are inconsistencies in the testimony or if one of the interviews is handled improperly the testimony could be viewed as unreliable. All this will support a defence of mistaken identity and allow the defence to argue that the victim’s testimony cannot be believed.

“I am incredibly passionate about improving the quality of evidence in sexual violence cases, and especially those that occur in low resource environments in which investigators have minimal training with regard to conducting investigative interviews with victims.

“This protocol is a very important step toward dissolving the culture of impunity that exits in sexual violence cases around the world, particularly in developing countries and conflict/post conflict regions.”

Dr Flowe, from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, is internationally acclaimed for her work on eyewitness memory preservation and the effects of alcohol on memory for traumatic events.

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