Coping with Sexual Violence at School

by Paula Dunn, Glasgow Rape Crisis download

Coping with Sexual Violence at School  

The Rosey Project, the prevention project at Glasgow Rape Crisis, has been supporting young women between the ages of 13 – 17 since 2005. During this time we have helped young women who have raped or sexually assaulted by a boy they go to school with. On some occasions the rape has taken place inside the school. A news article in October 2014 reported police statistics 2011 – 2013, revealing that 328 sexual offences took place in Scottish schools, 48 of these offences being rape.

At the Rosey Project, we’re unfortunately not surprised by these figures. What we are concerned about is how schools deal with this issue. As I have said, we have supported young women who have been raped in their school. Recently we also helped a young woman who had been raped outside of school by a peer. It does not matter where the rape has taken place. The devastating impact it has on her life and education is the same.

In our experience teachers are not trained or equipped to deal with disclosures of rape. In cases where the perpetrator is also a pupil at their school they seem to have even less confidence in properly dealing with the issue.

As you might imagine when a young woman is raped by a peer at her school she will become anxious and sometimes isolated. Often the perpetrator continues to bully the victim in order to silence her or provoke her in to being violent to try and convince people ‘she is crazy’. We have dealt with cases like this where a victim has been further exposed to risk as she is bullied by the perpetrator or his friends. The teacher’s response is often to tell the young woman to just walk away. This is easier said than done when you’re trapped in a corner by a group of angry young men.

We have worked with a young woman who, whilst defending herself against a physical assault by the perpetrator and his friends, was disciplined for hitting him and threatened with expulsion. The teacher’s response when I queried this was that they cannot tolerate any violent behaviour. The young woman should have walked away and told a teacher. This is a completely inappropriate response. There is a lack of training and understanding about the impact of sexual violence and this needs to be addressed to help young women.

We try and work closely with teachers if we are supporting a young woman at school. Glasgow Rape Crisis understands that the teacher’s job is to achieve academic results but it is also their job to ensure that all pupils feel safe and supported. Any issues that might affect this and their mental health should be managed and dealt with appropriately.

We offer training for teachers to help them deal better with disclosures and hopefully in the future, young women will feel supported in raising issues of sexual violence and assaults in the school environment.


16 Days of Action Against Gender Based Violence – Get Involved with Scottish Women’s Aid!

Ellie Hutchinson, Scottish Women’s Aid

The 16 days of activism against gender based violence run from the 25th November – 10th December. These 16 days encompass the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women (25th November), World AIDS day (1st Dec) and Human Rights Day (10th Dec). This fortnight and a bit focuses activists, governments, charities and individuals on celebrating and supporting survivors and remembering those who were killed in acts of gender based violence. Every year a theme is set to guide groups and make connections across countries and continents. This year, the theme is militarism. Exploring the links between violence against women and girls and war, peace and the military… please read more by clicking here.

At Scottish Women’s Aid, we’re working with a whole range of organisations; theatre and film groups, Edinburgh University, MSPs and other violence and women and girls charities on a range of events. We have –

  • A film screening of the Whistleblower alongside the Filmhouse, Scottish Refugee Council, Amnesty International Scotland and WILPF, and details of this can be found
  • A evening lecture with the School of Social and Political Studies at Edinburgh University
  • A seminar with the Scottish Commission for Human Rights.

Aside from these thematic events, another piece of work which we’ve launched is a survey on so called ‘revenge porn’- or, as we’d like to call it “non-consensual sharing of intimate media”. More of a mouthful, but it tells us much more about what is happening. It’s not about revenge and it’s not about porn. It’s about humiliation, manipulation, coercion and fear. If someone has threatened you with sharing images, films, photos, or any other file or has shared those files without your consent, it’s not ok. It’s not your fault and we are here for you. You can fill out the survey by clicking here.

This survey is the first of its kind in Scotland. We’re hoping to find out more about people’s experiences and what our next step should be. How have services responded if people have come forwarded? What do those who have been victimised in this way think about the issue? Without asking those questions, our answers will always be incomplete. To really tackle an issue, we must ask the people who have been directly affected by it.

That’s what the 16 days of activism helps us to do – put women and girl’s front and centre of all our work. When we remember women who have been killed by men, and celebrate those who are able to fight for equality and freedom, we must hear women’s stories, value their voices, learn from their experiences and work together in solidarity in order to achieve freedom from violence for all. For more information on what we’re up to this 16 days head over to our blog here.

The #indyref and Further Devolution for Scotland

by Kathryn Maclean

A week before Scotland decided NO, I went to the Big Debate at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. There were 8000 first time voters, who were school pupils, with free Wi-Fi for us to tweet and share what we were debating at the event. I was shocked at how many people in my generation were taking an interest in the referendum. I came out more confused about what I wanted to vote than I did going in. I read up on the subject but many things were bias. There was so much about the future of Scotland and what you thought that meant to you.

My idea of a future Scotland is not one in which you have to repress your own opinion in fear of being attacked in the street or being shouted down at by people that do not even know who you are. Even worse if its people you do know.

My idea of a future Scotland is one which has better job opportunities for young people, a free education and a safe place to stay.  I felt that the referendum gave people the hope that someday it might get better even if it was a yes or a no vote.

As it was a No vote, I witnessed fights and arguments on Facebook between the voters. There was a riot in my area at the result. I am honestly glad that it is all over and done with as it was pulling communities apart. When I entered that polling station on September 18th, yes I might not have known what I wanted to vote but I knew I wanted one which would benefit the people of Scotland. People united for one cause, no matter if they voted yes or no, to make Scotland a fairer and more equal place.


Preventing sexual violence through participation from young people in Perth and Kinross

by Hannah Turrell, Young People’s Prevention Worker with the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Perth and Kinross (RASAC P&K)

RASAC P&K is a free and confidential service, providing support, information and advocacy to anyone who identifies as a woman age 12+, and boys 12-18. The service is available to those affected by sexual violence at any time in their lives. Support can take place face to face or via email, telephone or letter. The Centre operates a helpline Monday – Friday and evening calls are directed to Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Helpline. Outreach appointments are available and the Centre facilitates regular groups for survivors.

RASAC Youth Initiative (RYI) is an interactive sexual violence prevention project in Perth and Kinross. Research has shown that young girls feel pressure to live up to the unrealistic expectations of society, with the media regularly normalising unhealthy representations of how both boys and girls should look and behave. Girls experience particular pressure to prioritise looks and are bombarded with messages about how to be “sexy”, have the perfect body shape, and keep your boyfriend.   Boys and young men are immersed in images and messages promoting masculinity as something which is dominant, “macho”, and in control. It is no secret that technology is everywhere nowadays and plays a big part in the lives of young people. Easier access to pornography has resulted in unprecedented numbers of young people being exposed to harmful messages and portrayals of sexuality and relationships.   RYI recognises the societal attitudes and harmful behaviours that these pressures perpetuate and the project is committed to challenging a society where women and girls are objectified for, and by, men. Also, we support government findings that have stated the sexualisation of young people can make them more vulnerable to abuse. RYI wants to challenge this by working with young people, parents and professionals across Perth and Kinross through a range of interactive workshops around sexualisation and sexual violence. Workshops take place in a range of educational and community settings.

Our workshops offer young people a safe platform to explore these issues and generate honest and healthy discussion amongst their peers. The workshops are designed to be engaging, challenging and to help make an impact. This assists in delivering important messages to young people. They also allow young people to discuss their opinions and explore where they might have come from. By giving and explaining facts easily, we can empower young people to have a voice. We can also encourage them to take into consideration, not only themselves, but others while becoming more active within their communities. By supporting self-expression, we are making it easier for young people to explore who they are both on and off line. The workshops also provide full support information and young people are given a range of contact details for agencies that can offer support, advice and information.   RYI are committed to effective prevention work as well as giving young survivors access to appropriate, specialist and needs led support.

For further information about RASAC P&K or RASAC Youth Initiative please see or telephone the Centre on 01738 626290.

Know your rights and join a trade union

by Jillian Merchant, Thompsons Scotland

Know your rights and join a trade union!

 Entering into the workplace can be a daunting experience for young people, particularly in the current economic climate. For many, this will be your first experience of the world of work and is vital that you are aware of your employment rights and the legal duties placed on employers to protect the health and safety and welfare of all their workers.

Young people are more likely to be injured at work or suffer ill health as a result of their work, due to their inexperience, and it is a concern that some employers may seek to take advantage of that inexperience and deny young workers even the most basis of rights.

Recent changes in legislation and the ever increasing use of zero hours, temporary and casual contracts mean that it is essential you are aware of your employment rights.

The following are basic employment rights that you should be aware of when entering the workplace:

  • Written Statement of Particulars of Employment – Within 8 weeks of starting work the employer is required to give you a written statement of particulars of employment including the express contractual terms such as pay, hours, holidays and length of notice to end the relationship.
  • Wages – The National Minimum Wage of those 21 and over is currently £6.31 per hour; if you are aged between 18-20 it is £5.03 p/h and £3.72 p/h for under 18 years. For apprentices under 19 years old or over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship it is £2.68 p/h.
  • Holidays – All workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid leave per year. Generally the pay you receive should be the same as for a normal week’s work. If you have no normal working hours, a week’s pay is calculated on a weekly average over a 12 week period, including overtime.
  • Breaks – You are entitled to a break of at least 20 minutes if your working day is longer than 6 hours. This does not have to be paid. If you are 16 or 17 you are entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes when you work for 4 ½ hours or more.

Unfortunately, due to recent changes made by the UK Government, many young people do not have protection against unfair dismissal. If you start employment after 06 April 2012 you will only accrue this right after you have been employed in the same job with the same employer for 2 years. If you started your job before 06 April 2012 however, you will be able to claim unfair dismissal after 1 year of employment. There are, in addition, a variety of automatically unfair reasons which do not require such a qualifying period. If you are dismissed you only have 3 months minus 1 day from the date of dismissal to raise a claim at the Employment Tribunal.

Given the lack of employment rights generally open to young people, for the reasons set out above, I recommend that all young workers join a trade union. If there is a union at your workplace, I would recommend joining that union. If, however, there is not a workplace trade union you are still entitled to join a trade union, even if there is no recognised one. A trade union is one of the best ways to collectively organise with fellow employees and fight for better terms and conditions. Some unions have lower rates for student members or part time workers which can help if you are not earning a lot from your job.

Jillian Merchant is a Solicitor in the Employment Team with Thompsons Scotland. Thompsons Employment Team work exclusively for employees involved in employment disputes and recently won the Employment Firm of the Year at the Law Awards of Scotland.


Facing barriers as a young woman in politics

by Siobhan McMahon MSP

A member of the Scottish Parliament

I am very privileged to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament; it is something I am extremely proud of. But it wasn’t an easy road to walk along in order to get where I am today.

Standing for election

Standing for election is a hard and difficult process for anyone to go through however I found that being a young woman brings its own unique challenges to the process.  I remember having a discussion with Johann Lamont around the time I was thinking of putting my name forward to be considered for the list in Central Scotland.  I was telling her that I wasn’t sure I should apply for the process as I didn’t feel at the age of 25 that I was old enough to be considered.  The response Johann gave me has always stuck with me; she said “Do you think a man your age would think the same thing?” At that time I thought well it would depend on the situation they find themselves in. How wrong was I!

Having made the decision to stand and then put everything I had into my campaign to get the party members to support me I was shocked to find myself get to number 3 on the list. However that wasn’t the end of the story.  The party had decided to ‘zip’ the female or ethnic minority candidate with the highest number of votes to the top of the list meaning that in the end I was number 1 for Central Scotland.  The truth is I’m not entirely comfortable with zipping and I’m not sure if I would have taken my seat in Parliament had we not got 3 candidates elected from the list. But that was the process my Party had agreed so that’s the process I had to live with.

Facing barriers as a young woman in politics

It won’t surprise many of you reading this to know that the decision to zip a woman to number 1 didn’t go down too well with a number of male (and female) members in my area. One man in particular went so far as to say that I should be ashamed of myself and that I should resign my position as it was ridiculous that a woman could get to the dizzy heights of number 1 in our area.

I was shocked that such an attitude would not only exist in 2010 but that it was shared and in such an aggressive manner. Had I thought about resigning my position, given my own thoughts about the zipping process, this made my mind up that I wouldn’t be going anywhere!

Supporting young women in politics

A number of colleagues supported me throughout this process but a few did not.  This was my first real experience of sexism and it is one that I will never forget.  It’s hard enough being judged as a female politician by how you look, what you wear, how you do your hair. But to have the very people who should be backing you throughout that process undermining you and your confidence is something I never want another woman to experience.

I’m glad I went through the process and I was delighted to be elected.  I never tire of going to events in my local area as an MSP for Central Scotland and seeing that same man there. I hope I act as a reminder to him of what his actions spurred me on to do!

My message to other women who have to go through similar experiences is never doubt your own ability and let those who try to put you off spur you on to do great things.

If women aren’t at the table, they’re on the menu

by Emma Ritch, Executive Director of Engender

In the last couple of weeks there has been a flurry of interest in the issue of women on boards in Scotland. There’s been some media attention, including a discussion on Scotland Tonight and news articles.

To young women who are studying, or working in their first jobs, the boardroom seems like an incredibly remote place. We’re all much more likely to see one on TV or in films than in real life. Most of us will never sit in their comfortably padded chairs, or make decisions around their enormous tables.

Yet the decisions made in boardrooms are important to all of us. It’s where private sector newsagents and supermarkets decide whether to continue selling lads’ mags like Nuts and Zoo. It’s where public bodies decide how much funding services like Rape Crisis centres will receive. It’s where all organisations decide how they will focus their time and resources.

There’s a saying that’s often repeated when the subject of women and boards comes up: “If women aren’t at the table, they’re on the menu.” It means that discussions that don’t include women often come to conclusions that don’t reflect the reality of women’s lives.

When you bring women into the conversation, you talk about different subjects. The 50/50 campaign brought women’s groups together to campaign for gender parity in the Scottish Parliament. They were successful in creating a Parliament with a different culture from Westminster’s; one with family-friendly working hours, and a crèche that can be used by visitors.

The international evidence tells us that the best performing boards are those that have a mix of men and women. They make better, wiser decisions. When it comes to public services, which we all depend on, it’s even more important to be sure that women are among the decision-makers and that good decisions get made. So how do we collectively make sure that women get a seat at the table?

Despite decades of awareness-raising, many organisations have a very low number of women on their boards. Many countries around the world have introduced quotas to get balance more quickly. These temporary arrangements mean that organisations are required by law to find women to fill a certain proportion of their board positions. It’s common for this proportion to be around 40 per cent, which is still a lot less than the proportion of people who are women! Contrary to the doom and gloom predictions that there wouldn’t be enough talented women to fill all these extra positions, countries that have introduced quotas have found that the quality of the people on their boards has gone up. Their board members are even more qualified and skilled to make the important decisions.

Public sector cuts have had a serious impact on women in Scotland, both as workers and as people who depend on public services. It’s time for us to take a bold step to make sure that women’s voices are part of all the conversations about the future of Scotland’s public services.