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.

A sexualised society and the effect on young people’s relationships

by Paula Dunn, Glasgow Rape Crisis

Glasgow Rape Crisis

The Rosey Project is Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre’s dedicated support and prevention service for young people. The project is comprises of a support service for young women between 13 and 17 year olds, a prevention programme which takes us in to schools and youth groups across Glasgow to deliver sexual violence awareness raising workshops to boys and girls. The workshops are based around some of the issues that we hear about at the Centre.

Pornography

Intimate partner violence is common amongst a lot of women who attend our centre for support, and young women are no exception. One of the issues which is raised repeatedly is pornography. Their boyfriend watches it, encourages them to watch it, coerces them in to copying what they see and in some cases forces them to re-enact what is happening in pornographic material. Young women tell us they feel traumatised by what has happened but because they ‘agreed’ to the sexual contact they feel they don’t deserve support. It takes a lot of time to build up trust to get the young women to understand the nature of coercion and how this differs to consent or ‘free agreement’ as described in legislation (Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009). Survivors of sexual violence experience a lot of self blame, guilt and shame which results in many young women feeling isolated, frightened, angry and confused. In order to cope with how they’re feeling, some young women self harm or experience thoughts of suicide because they feel there is no other way.

Media

I haven’t even begun to talk about the impact that ‘lads’ mags’ have on young people and teen relationships. Many young women who have come to the Rosey Project for support or who have attended our workshops experience low self esteem because their boyfriend wants them to look like the women in these magazines. This is an image we know is impossible to achieve. We live in a pornified society, saturated with sexually explicit images with no regard to how these images might affect the developing minds of young people. The nature and prevalence of sexual violence is underestimated by many and the concept of coercion within relationships isn’t something that is explored with young people with any level of detail.

Social Media

Pornography is not the only issue affecting young people and relationships. A lot of the young women attending our centre tell us that abusive comments have been written about them on social media, seemingly with no real consequences for the perpetrators. Some of these remain anonymous but others are people in their school or where they live. Even if the young woman does know the person there seems to be a social acceptance that if you are on Facebook then you are ’fair game’. Comments like ‘what do you expect’ are unfortunately all too common. We live in a digital age where social network sites are an easy way to connect and keep in touch. Young women affected by sexual bullying shouldn’t be expected to cut themselves off and disconnect from all their friends and wider social circle. Time after time the ‘victim’ is expected to adjust her lifestyle and the perpetrator becomes invisible.

 The Pressure of Conforming

The pressure that young women are under to conform and alter their behaviour is enormous. We find that young women are open to hearing about alternatives because, all too often, they don’t feel as though they have any other choices. At the Rosey Project we believe a national educational initiative is needed to remedy this. Education about the reality of sexual violence and consent might allow young women to recognise that they have the right to say no to unwanted sexual contact and that support is available if they need it.

Young women need to know what a healthy, consensual relationship looks like and that they deserve to be safe and respected.