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Community / Challenging perceptions of sexual violence

Anderson High School student’s research project aims to raise awareness and challenge public perceptions on sexual violence in Shetland

Gracie Gowans-Little: ‘There is a much-needed conversation to be had about sexual violence and the stigma surrounding it in Shetland’.

AS A SIXTH year student, Gracie Gowans-Little is currently completing her baccalaureate in social science at the Anderson High School, writes Erin Rizzato Devlin.

Her final research project aims to raise awareness within the community about sexual violence and speak of the work that charities do to tackle this issue in Shetland.

“There is a much-needed conversation to be had about sexual violence and the stigma surrounding it in Shetland,” she said when speaking to Shetland News.

“This is a conversation I want this project to start.

“I believe that raising awareness of such a sensitive and complex issue can help break barriers around accessing support and can empower survivors to speak out.”

Her reasons for this project were inspired by her experience as a volunteer and her advanced higher subjects.

Having been a volunteer with The Compass Centre’s young activists’ group, Gowans-Little contributed to projects campaigning for safety and equality in high schools across Shetland and informing Scottish Government policies with consultations on gender-based violence in schools.

Following this, she began thinking about the different perceptions of sexual violence, particularly in a rural island community, such as Shetland.

She became interested in questions regarding the difference between the perception and reality of sexual violence, and whether support offered to counter this differed due to being in Shetland.

“Challenging public perceptions of sexual violence is something I am really passionate about and addressing the underlying belief that ‘sexual violence doesn’t happen here’ is incredibly important, and a large reason as to why I chose this as my baccalaureate topic,” she said.

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Her project works alongside five local charities: The Compass Centre, Shetland Women’s Aid, Space2Face, Victim Support Shetland and The Open Project.

“This is a conversation I want this project to start”.

These organisations work to address sexual violence in different ways, be it through support for victims, involvement in the criminal justice system, or the promotion of education around this issue.

“I have received an amazing amount of support from all five charities and would like to thank them for being so helpful, informative and welcoming,” Gowans-Little continued.

“After each interview I felt motivated to complete this project to the very best of my ability in order to do these incredible charities justice.”

Planning to finish her project in March 2024, Gowans-Little is currently collecting responses from the local community to inform her research project.

“Already, I am receiving lots of responses from the community so I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has, or will, take the time to complete my survey.”

The survey can be found here.

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