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Instant support for victims of sexual violence

Shetland Rape Crisis project worker Linda Gray: 'surprised by how taboo this subject still seems to be' - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

SHETLAND’s first dedicated rape support service will formally launch in Mareel’s screen two and upstairs bar on Tuesday afternoon, with presentations and a short film on offer.

Shetland Rape Crisis is based in Lerwick’s Market House and it will provide support, advocacy and information for anybody aged 13 and over who has been a victim of sexual violence.

Shetland Rape Crisis is staffed by qualified psychotherapist Linda Gray, who will work 28 hours a week in the role.

People will be able to receive free and confidential support in person or through telephone, email and video calling, regardless of when they experienced sexual violence or whether it was reported to the police.

Shetland Rape Crisis will also provide “instant support” on an advocacy level to anyone who has recently gone through a sexual assault and is needing assistance in areas like police interviews and forensic tests.

While the number of reported sexual crimes in the isles is rising, Gray said the subject still remains brushed under the carpet in a close-knit community like Shetland.

In 2014/15 a total of 30 sexual related crimes were reported in Shetland, which is an increase of 13 from the previous year.

“I’ve been surprised by how taboo this subject still seems to be within the islands,” she said.

“It’s been interesting for me to get a handle on that, and to see how it still seems to be one of those things that folk don’t seem to readily speak about.

“I think some of it seems to come from a real confusion about what is consent and what is rape and sexual violence.

“That’s something that really needs to be tackled. I think it’s partly that, and partly that if folk do come forward then you’re kind of labelled. There’s still a lot of stigma around that needs dealt with.”

While Rape Crisis Scotland will oversee the service after being given £1.85 million by the Scottish Government to expand its services northwards, Gray will be mentored by Rape & Sexual Abuse Service Highland.

She will work closely with local agencies like Women’s Aid, the NHS and the police.

Sessions will also be offered to non-abusive members of family or friends who are struggling to cope with supporting someone who has been affected.

Gray has been in her post since mid-February to get the service up to scratch before its formal launch.

She feels there is potential for Shetland Rape Crisis to expand wider into the local community in the future, should funding be made available.

“At the moment, my post is only 28 hours, so I’m developing the service,” Gray said.

“But also I’m gathering the evidence to see what the need is in Shetland, and what needs aren’t being met.

“It would be great to have a prevention and education worker, to maybe do promotional things like going into schools.”

Linda Gray can be contacted at Rape Crisis Shetland, Market House, 14 Market Street, Lerwick, telephone: 01595 745078/07570 062362, e-mail: contact@shetlandrapecrisis.scot, web: www.shetlandrapecrisis.scot or Facebook: www.facebook.com/shetlandrapecrisis