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.

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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.

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.

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.

Why are we Better Together?

Carys Hughes, Activist from Women Together

Next year people in Scotland will make the biggest political decision of our lives; whether to remain a part of the UK or go it alone. The referendum gives us the opportunity to look at our priorities and decide how we can best address the things that matter to us.

As a young woman, I want to use this opportunity to bring a whole range of issues to the forefront of current political debate, from tackling the gender pay gap to rooting out the scourge of domestic violence, as well as looking at how we can take action to ensure young girls around the world can access the education they are entitled to.

Concern about the impact that separation from the rest of the UK would have on our daily lives is truly universal, but it is vital that women’s voices are heard when it comes to the economic debate. The economy is fundamental to women’s lives; tough economic times hit us the hardest, and negatively impacts on the fight for gender equality. Reading the leaked Government Cabinet paper raised concerns about what it would mean for me to be a young woman in an independent Scotland. The paper outlined plans for cuts to public sector jobs, pensions and welfare spending, yet it is women that are more likely to work in the public sector and in part-time jobs – often the first to be cut. Women pensioners are more likely to be in poverty and as parents and carers, women are more likely to be in receipt of welfare support.

On a more personal level, I’m in my final year of University and I don’t want there to be any barriers to finding a good job when I graduate. I know I’m not alone when I say that I don’t want to jeopardise the opportunities we have as part of a bigger UK.  The size, strength and stability of the UK economy meant the UK Government was able to intervene during the global financial crisis and save banks from collapsing. This protected the savings and mortgages of thousands of Scots, saved thousands of Scottish jobs and averted economic meltdown. The advantages of that bigger UK economy are clear – we have the ability to pool and share risk and reward in order to avoid and weather the worst of economic storms.

I firmly believe that right now Scotland has the best of both worlds; we have our strong Scottish Parliament, with a strong track record of female representation and focussing on the issues affecting women.  But we also have the strength and security that comes from being part of the wider UK.

That is why this year I helped to launch Women Together.  Our grassroots network of women will hold events in towns and cities across the country, to listen to women’s views, creating a space to look at how we can achieve our priorities as well as get involved in our campaign for Scotland in the UK.

*The SWC are holding a conference on The Referendum on the 25th January 2014. We will have speakers from the Yes and Better Together campaigns. If you would like come along please email info@scottishwomensconvention.org*

Being a woman in the Police, Melanie’s story

by Melanie Dawson, Police Scotland, Scottish Women’s Development Forum

I have been in the Police for 6 years. I started my career in sunny Leith where I was a response officer for 3 years. I then worked in the community team (SNT) for just over a year.  Following this, I went onto Command Support to see a different side of policing and I was there for 18 months.  I am now at Portobello Community Team and really enjoying it.  I joined this team at 26 and I’m now 30 years old.

Why I applied is a mixture of a lot of different reasons, both my parents were in the Police so in a way it seemed a natural choice.  I studied Sport at university and wanted to do a job I could be active in and have a different challenge every day.  The application process for me wasn’t easy. Failing once at the maths test and having to wait a year before I could apply again – it was tough.  But I took advantage of the time and went back to get 99% in the test I had originally failed.

Getting into the police was one of the best moments of my life, it was a lot of hard work to achieve it and get through the college.  I remember my first shift at Leith as being very exciting and like nothing I had ever experienced before.  I think up until this point I had a much romanticized view of what being a police officer was.  I absolutely love my job but nothing can prepare you for the culture shock.

I love that I get time to see things through from start to finish and get to see the impact of the work I do. When you are a response officer the frequency of jobs you are expected to go to is very high and its often hard to see the positive impact you have had on people’s lives.   I really enjoy the team cohesion I get working within the police. There is no other job like it for feeling part of a larger family.  There are so many personalities which is a good thing, and it doesn’t matter how different we are when we need to work together and get the job done and stay safe.