Community / Support available for anyone affected by media coverage of sexual harm and violence

Image: Sam McPherson

LOCAL charities say help is at hand for people who may have been affected by recent high-profile media coverage of sexual harm and violence, including those who have experienced it in the past or who are going through it at the moment.

This includes the reporting of numerous allegations against the celebrity Russell Brand, which he denies.

Service manager at the Compass Centre, Lisa Ward, said the charity is aware it has been a tough month for “survivors of sexual harm and violence, with several high-profile cases hitting the headlines that have prompted some to re-examine their own past experiences”.

“This can raise all kinds of difficult feelings and questions and may leave you feeling isolated and overwhelmed,” they said.

“Many have been left wondering whether they should report what they are now realising are historical sexual and/or domestic abuse offences, and if so, what this might look like.


“Many are struggling with the emotional and physiological effects of trauma and unsure how to process what they experienced.

“Others are living in situations where sexual and/or domestic abuse is ongoing and seeing themselves in these stories.”

Ward said that Shetland can feel like a “uniquely isolating environment for survivors of these types of interpersonal crimes”.

This includes people feeling “trapped” whilst having to live alongside their abusers, who may be well-liked members of the community.

“Perpetrators of this type of violence, like those in high-profile national and international cases, may speak very charismatically and convincingly to undermine the voices of those that they have victimised in private, and peers may struggle to believe what they have done, if they have even heard about it at all,” Ward said.

“For this reason, we believe that it important that survivors know that we hear them and believe them; that they are not alone; and that there is help available here.

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“The Compass Centre is here for all non-abusive survivors of sexual harm and violence in Shetland, of all genders, aged 13+.

“We provide free and confidential information, support, and resources, no matter when it happened. For those looking for someone to speak to, our Sexual Violence Support Service and Sexual Violence Counselling Service are available.

“For those considering reporting, our Sexual Crime Advocacy Service provides information and support to help you decide how you wish to proceed, and ongoing support for those who do decide to report.”

Meanwhile Shetland Women’s Aid is also on offer to help.

Service manager Laura Stronach said: “For women who have experienced or are currently experiencing intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, and/or coercive control, Shetland Women’s Aid provides free and confidential support with refuge, risk-management, establishing safety, one-to-one support, trauma recovery, counselling, and group support, as well as support for those considering engaging, or currently engaging with, the criminal justice system around these offences.


“We help to empower service users to process their experiences with no expectation to report or leave their situations.

“Our children’s service includes practical and emotional support, as well as art and creative therapies, for children and young people of all genders, age, and ability.”

Other support in Shetland includes:

Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARCS)

The SARC, based at Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, is a self-referral service for anyone, of any gender, aged 16+, who has been recently raped or sexually assaulted.

The service stores forensic medical evidence for up to 26 months, meaning that people do not need to make any immediate decisions about whether to report to the police.

People can refer themselves to a SARC by calling their dedicated number, which is available 24/7 and free from landlines and mobile: 0800 148 88 88.


Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland (DSDAS)

DSDAS gives people the right to ask about the background of their partner and gives Police Scotland the power to tell people that they may be at risk. It also allows concerned relatives and friends the right to ask about someone’s partner.

You can ask if someone has been abusive in the past, which allows for a more informed choice on whether to remain in the relationship. To find out more, phone 101.

For Child and Adult Protection

If someone is concerned that a child or young person is at risk of harm, abuse, or neglect, or that an adult at risk is being subject to abuse or harm, people can contact duty social work Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, on 01595 744 468. Outside of these hours, call 01595 695 611.

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