Community / Record figures at sexual violence charity shows ‘real cultural change’

Nearly 100 people accessed help from the Compass Centre in 2021/22 and service manager Lisa Ward says more people are ‘taking a stand’

Compass Centre service manager Lisa Ward.

A SEXUAL violence support charity in Shetland has reported a 38 per cent increase in people accessing its services over the past year.

The Compass Centre, also known as Shetland Rape Crisis, released its annual report for 2021/22 this week.

The report shows an increase from 68 people accessing its services in 2020/21 to 94 in 2021/22. 

During the year there were nearly 40 instances of rape reported by service users and more than 40 sexual assault reports.

The charity saw 47 people in its first year, meaning that the most recent figures represent an 100 per cent increase in folk seeking help over the last five years.

Service manager Lisa Ward said: “These figures show that real cultural change is happening in Shetland.

“Sexual violence is not new and folk in our community have long suffered in silence, but with national movements such as #MeToo and corresponding local initiatives such as Rhea’s #WisToo, we are seeing more folk come forward for help and taking a stand to say that this behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”


The centre also saw a 58 per cent rise in people accessing its advocacy service, which provides support for survivors of sexual crime reporting through the criminal justice system.

This mirrors statements made earlier this year by chief inspector Stuart Clemenson, who noted a significant increase in reports of sexual crime to the police in Shetland.

Ward explained: “Sexual violence is any form of sexual contact that you don’t freely agree to. It is described as violence because it is a violation of your autonomy. It is common and anyone can experience it. Sexual violence doesn’t ‘just happen’.

“A person perpetrates sexual violence because, at some level, they choose to do so. But there is help available, and you are not alone.

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“We work closely with the police to try to make the experience of reporting less daunting for those who choose to take that route.

“But even with the large increase in those accessing our advocacy services this year, most people do not report what happened to them.

“Everyone’s needs are different and no-one knows how they would react after an experience of sexual violence. Respecting survivors’ choices is paramount.”

Some of the most common effects of sexual violence reported by service users included anxiety, restrictions to activities/movements, sleep problems, isolation and depression.

With the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence coming up at the end of this month, the charity is gearing up for a busy couple of weeks.

This includes the launch of a new campaign against sexual harassment and intimate image abuse, as well as partnership work with Shetland Women’s Aid to present a new play about coercive control by Stephenie Georgia.

The charity is also currently recruiting new trustees to join its board.

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