POLICE in Shetland have added their voice to a growing campaign to help put an end to gender-based violence in the isles.
This follows on from a ground-breaking report compiled by local teenager Rhea detailing accounts of sexual assaults and abuse reported to her via an anonymous app by other people in Shetland.
The stories came from people of all genders across the isles, but the vast majority of accounts detailed incidents against young women and girls.
Her work has been praised by local charities and politicians, and was featured in the local and national press.
Now Police Scotland, working with Shetland Rape Crisis and Shetland Women’s Aid, is asking people to be vigilant, to report offenders and to help prevent gender-based violence.
Inspector Martyn Brill said: “Reading those accounts was shocking in terms of the extent of sexual offending against women and other young, vulnerable people of other genders in our community and the seriousness of this unreported criminality happening across Shetland.
“However, what disturbs me most, is that there are individuals in our community who think it is ok to behave in this way. My message to them is: this is not ok, it is unacceptable.”
He added that police was well aware that offenders would try a shift the blame for their behaviour to others.
“There are no excuses and the blame for any form of gender-based abuse, most of which is perpetrated by men against women but can be committed by anyone against anyone, lies with the perpetrator,” he said.
“Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or violence, or knows someone who has been a victim, can talk to us. We can help. We will listen and we will investigate.
“And we will continue to work with our partners to ensure support is available and to help make our communities safe for everyone.”
Service manager at Shetland Rape Crisis Lisa Ward said help for those affected by sexual violence is available locally.
“Shetland Rape Crisis can support you however you choose to proceed – whether you want to make a formal report or whether you would prefer to access emotional support or trauma therapy – we are here for you. The choice is yours and we follow your lead to recovery, she said.
“We support survivors of all genders, backgrounds, and experiences; for those affected recently or a long time ago; recovery is possible.”
Laura Stronach of Shetland Women’s Aid added: “We need to call out the normalisation of sexual assault, coercion and rape within relationships and marriage, these are not things women and children should ever have to live with.
“It is never too late to talk to someone about what has happened to you, these experiences can affect how you live day-to-day for the rest of your life, but there is help available, and we can provide trauma recovery.
“The kind of behaviours exposed here are absolutely unacceptable and no one should have to go through any of these experiences. If you have been affected by anything mentioned in this article, please talk to someone about it.”
Anyone wishing to report a crime to Police Scotland should call 101, but in an emergency or where a crime is in progress, always call 999. More information on gender-based abuse can also be found at www.safershetland.com
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