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)

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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 www.rasacpk.org.uk or telephone the Centre on 01738 626290.

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Healthy Relationships and Dating Abuse

by Ellie Hutchinson, Scottish Women’s Aid

Healthy Relationships and Dating Abuse

I’m the prevention worker at Scottish Women’s Aid, and this means I spend pretty much all my time thinking about violence against women. But I don’t just think about the causes, I think about solutions. The bottom line of all my work is everyone deserves to be safe and secure and have healthy relationships.

Healthy Relationships
So what is a healthy relationship?  A good starting point is to think about our relationships with our friends. What values do we look for in a friendship? Do we look for trust, humour, respect, empathy? Or do we look for possession, jealousy and control?

Most of us would look for the first list- but many of us might forget those values when we’re in romantic relationships. Thinking about why that might be leads us to explore how we learn about relationships- both romantic and non-romantic. Programmes or films that talk about friendships show people supporting each other in crisis, having fun and just generally hanging out.  Programmes or films that feature sexual relationships tend to show a very specific way of “doing” a relationship.

Unhealthy Relationships
Next time you see a film or a music video about sexual relationships think about- what do those people look like? What are they doing? What are the things they are valuing in each other? How are they talking about each other? To each other? Quite often it is possessiveness, jealousy, ownership or treating people as sexual objects. If a friend told you what to wear, who to see, how to talk, how to have sex (or not) it wouldn’t feel ok. And it’s not. And it’s not ok for a partner to do those things either. That’s why in one of our projects we asked young people to tell us what a healthy relationship means to them, why they “get it”. To find out more click here.

How to Speak Out
Most of us know what a healthy relationship looks like, but it can feel hard to get that when we’re faced with so many messages to the contrary. It’s also really hard for women and girls to speak out, because if we do so we might be labelled “uptight” or much worse. But dating and domestic abuse isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a people one; and we need boys and men to help us and speak out too.

Speaking out can be tough, so here are some suggestions on how you might want to get involved:

  1. Challenge sexism in your friends. We run a bystander programme to help people think about how they might do this. Check it out http://togetherwecanstopit.org/get-savi-resources/
  2. If you see something that promotes unhealthy relationships and you’re online, share it  on twitter with the #notbuyingit hashtag, or forward on to @everyday sexism
  3. Think about the media you do read/watch/buy- what is it saying about relationships?
  4. Support folk when they tell you about unhealthy relationships. Find out more http://www.togetherwecanstopit.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2010/11/SWA-Supporting-Someone.pdf
  5. If you’re a man and want to speak out, check out the #notthatlad campaign from us, the NUS and White Ribbon Scotland. http://togetherwecanstopit.org/news/im-not-that-lad-creating-an-alternative-banter/
  6. Read up on the issue. Find out more about dating abuse http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/advice-information/advice-information-young-people/dating-abuse

We believe that by doing one thing, we can stop domestic  and dating abuse.