YOUNG people in local schools are “really engaged” with learning more about issues like consent, according to the service manager of Shetland Rape Crisis.
Lisa Ward said after conducting workshops herself with pupils “my impression is that they aware that this is unacceptable and that they don’t want it to continue into the future”.
An annual report for 2019/20 recently released by Shetland Rape Crisis showed that 44 workshops on preventing sexual violence were hosted last year to nearly 1,000 local young people.
Workshops were held in all seven of Shetland’s secondary schools, while young people aged between 11-23 were involved.
The workshops aim to support young people to develop positive attitudes and behaviours and understand more about issues like consent, stereotypes, the influence of media and pornography, how to access support and the law.
“We have a whole bunch of amazing young people who were really engaged, really passionate and really hungry for the knowledge,” Ward said.
“Obviously there will be a mixed bag at all times, because we’re not living in a perfect society where all the messages are great. We have a lot of really difficult messages to counter about what’s healthy relationships, what’s healthy sexual relationships.”
Across the charity a total of 51 people accessed support or help in 2019/20 – the same number as the previous year.
This was predominantly women, but Ward said eight men used the service in 2019/20 – an increase of two on the last year.
In the past year this was purely to access the trauma therapy side of the charity.
“It’s very small numbers, but slightly up this year,” Ward said. “Hoping we got the message out of how sexual violence actually works, that it’s not just women that’s affected and that there is help for men if they need it.”
Figures show that the majority of sexual violence offences noted by the charity occurred either in the survivor’s or perpetrator’s homes.
However, there were offences recorded in locations such as workplaces, entertainment venues, schools and car homes.
This ties in with the recently published Towards a Safer Shetland report, which was compiled by local teenager Rhea to document first-hand accounts of sexual harassment and violence in the isles.
Shetland Rape Crisis’ annual report also highlights that the majority of those accessing the service were first affected by sexual violence when they under 18.
The age bracket with the largest numbers was under 13.
“We don’t ask anybody for any of this stuff while they’re in a session,” Ward explained.
“The session is about what they need. But sometimes people do disclose things about what they’ve experienced. Quite often somebody that’s coming to us, they might be coming about something that happened when they were a bit older – in their 20s, or their 50s – but as they are receiving either the therapy or the advocacy support they might disclose other incidents throughout life.
“You quite often hear about the first time somebody experienced an incident of sexual violence, quite often because that’s really formative for people. It might be an adverse childhood experience – it might be amongst many, or it might be one thing that’s occurred. It’s quite clear that most people were affected very young.”
Another frank set of statistics in the report is the effects of sexual violence people are reporting.
Some of the most common effects are anxiety, lack of confidence, flashbacks, depression, nightmares and negative self image.
Also common are suicidal thoughts, relationship problems and restrictions to movements and activities.
There were also a couple of reports of pregnancy as an after-effect of sexual violence.
“It affects somebody’s entire social life,” Ward said.
“It’s not just how they feel about themselves, it not just about how they feel within themselves, but it can be things like losing your job or restrictions to your movement because you can’t go to Tesco because the perpetrator is there or works there.
“Restrictions to movement and activities can be physical things like pregnancy, HIV, STIs and physical health problems because lots of sexual violence is both a violation but also physically violent.
“It can result in massive social inequalities, like being able to access the help that you need – your housing, your employment, relationships that you have in the future.”
On Wednesday the police, alongside Shetland Rape Crisis and Shetland Women’s Aid teamed up to call on the local community to help stamp out sexual abuse and violence.
Inspector Martyn Brill said reading the accounts in the Towards a Safer Shetland report 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”.
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