Community / ‘Truly astonishing’ number of responses to call for experiences of sexual harassment

First-hand accounts of rape and sexual assault in Shetland feature in the Compass Centre campaign

Photo: The Compass Centre

NEARLY 200 first-hand accounts of sexual harassment and intimate image abuse in Shetland have been submitted to a new campaign which shines a stark light on people’s experiences in the isles.

Among the submissions, which form part of a new Compass Centre campaign, include numerous instances of rape and sexual assault in Shetland.

It follows the sexual violence charity’s #WisToo project in 2020 which culminated in a report featuring accounts of sexual harassment and violence in the isles.

The new campaign is designed to raise awareness, and a few quotes have been selected for a poster campaign which will appear on buses, ferries and public spaces.

A total of 190 submissions were provided, and people’s identities have been kept anonymous.

Some of the experiences include:

  • Rape and sexual assault, often carried out in a public place
  • Various instances of sexual harassment and assault in school or college
  • People being flashed at in public, or receiving inappropriate comments or advances

There are also multiple instances of inappropriate behaviour being experienced by young people.

One account highlights how they left a higher paid bar job to work in another low paid role because of the “sickening” level of sexual harassment received at work, particularly from people on party buses.

Another says they ended up quitting playing a sport because they were inappropriately touched at a sports club when they were 16.

One person also said they “found a website page full of videos of people masturbating over the top of photos (non-intimate photos, all from public social media pages) of myself and other lasses from Shetland”.

The girls singled out who was behind it, and the issue was passed to the police.

Another experience states that people took indecent videos of them without their knowledge or consent when they were 12. These videos were then played and shared in class.

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The Compass Centre’s prevention and activism worker Ellie Ratter, who led the project, said: “190 submissions were collected over the submission period – a truly astonishing number which shows the extent of the impact sexual harassment and intimate image abuse has on people in Shetland.

“We are grateful to everyone who felt they could share their story with us as part of this campaign.”

All submissions have been published in a digital document on The Compass Centre’s website.

Some online submissions mention specific locations and events in Shetland where contributors to the campaign say these things were done to them.

The integrity of contributor’s own words has been maintained as far as possible and the contents within this document reflect the submissions received only.

Ratter added: “Many submissions stressed that ‘it does happen here’ as a key message they wanted to get across in sharing their experiences.


“With the volume of submissions and the breadth of experiences shared, we can no longer sweep this behaviour under the carpet, and I’d like to invite folk to really engage the campaign with an open mind and join wis in spikking oot against sexual harassment and intimate image abuse in Shetland.”

Service manager Lisa Ward further explained the purpose of the campaign as the charity approaches the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence: “Sexual harassment and intimate image abuse are behaviours informed by a wider set of cultural values that enable other forms of sexual violence such as assault, abuse and rape.

“Anyone may be subject to sexual violence, and this is clear from the wide range of experiences, identities and backgrounds shared by contributors to the campaign, but sexual harm and violence are not an inevitability – they are preventable.


“At The Compass Centre, we recognise that sexual violence and harm happens in all places and contexts, and that tackling it takes a collective response.

“We hope that Shetlanders’ brave submissions to this campaign will contribute to the wider community continuing to work together towards a making our islands a safer place to live, work and socialise for all.”

The charity said that sexual harassment is any words or actions of a sexual nature that are not wanted or agreed to.

It may include, but is not limited to: cat-calling/wolf-whistling/other street harassment, unwanted comments of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, and unwelcome comments based on gender and/or sexuality.

Sexual harassment can occur in person, digitally, or even over the phone.

Meanwhile it said intimate image abuse consists of intimate images (photos, video, and/or audio recordings) of someone being shared without their consent, or threats to share these.


This may include, but is not limited to: intimate images that are originally sent with consent but then further shared and/or kept without consent, intimate images taken without the person’s knowledge or consent, and threats to create and/or share intimate images if a person does not comply with the perpetrator’s wishes.

The sharing of intimate images often forms a part of wider abuse and is sometimes known colloquially as “revenge porn.”

The Compass Centre is open Monday to Thursday from 9am to 1.30pm and can be contacted on 01595 747174 or contact@compasscentre.org.

Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline is open 6pm to midnight daily on 0800 01 02 03 or email: support@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk

Childline can be contacted between 9am and midnight daily on 0800 1111.

There is also a revenge porn helpline people can phone. It is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, on 0345 6000 459. There is also email too, at help@revengepornhelpline.org.uk

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