Archives for category: Violence Against Women


A Scottish Rape Crisis

It is not for the first time that this column has been given over to discussions of rape and violence against women but it may be the first time I’ve directed my pen at all right thinking  men – yes you sir – please – read on! Whether it is right here in Scotland or in just about any country across the world rape is on the increase. There have been too many rapes on Glasgow streets in the last fortnight – with thousands of south side residents taking to the streets last week in protest. Angelina Jolie and William Hague recently hosted an international summit highlighting the widespread use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Rape is fed by a rape culture which regards women as inferior, unequal, and their bodies fair game. It is all around us. The UN’s Special Rapporteur recently criticised Britain’s ‘in-your-face’ sexist culture – she visited Scotland too. The twitter-sphere provides a convenient cover for cowardly avatars who taunt and troll women daring to venture into the public eye. When the likes of the never-funny Jimmy Carr and his ilk get away with playing sexual violence for laughs and are paid huge amounts of tax-free dosh for doing so, you do wonder when your average Joe is going to stand up and say enough already.

If you think rape culture doesn’t happen here then ask any adjacent teenager or grown man if they like Page 3, laugh off lads mags as just a abit of fun or ever groove along to Robin Thicke [sic] and his sick ‘Blurred Lines’ (it goes something like this: …I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two… He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that. Not many women can refuse this pimpin’). Grand Theft Auto? Ask them if they’ve ever murdered a prostitute after they’ve had sex with her to get their money back. Ah how wonderful – a rape and murder get you game points –whatever happened to the medieval shenanigans of the harmless old woman-free zone that was Assassins Creed?

Most men don’t rape but maybe it’s time the just-a-bit-too-silent majority of you out there stood up for us women folk like the many men on the Glasgow march and challenged the misogynist culture which is actually aimed at you. The Scottish White Ribbon Campaign and Mentors in Violence Prevention are working at getting chaps to man up against violence against women. Come on guys! You need to work with us on this one!

Rape Crisis Helpline: 08088 01 03 02;

West Dunbartonshire CARA VAW Counselling and Advocacy Service: 01389 738680

White Ribbon Scotland:

Mentors in Violence Prevention:

Follow me on Twitter @AnniDonaldson

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w-3270145bill walker release

Daily Record 22 March 2014

Bill Walker’s early release is an indictment on the handling of domestic abuse by our justice system. The former MSP was convicted in September 2013 of 22 violent assaults against three former wives and a step-daughter. The conviction and imprisonment of such a high profile figure for serious domestic abuse offences does show how far Scotland’s criminal justice system has come in dealing with domestic abuse. But unfortunately the system can still stymy progress, as his early release has shown.

Despite the seriousness of the charges, the Sheriff’s hands were tied and the maximum sentence Sheriff Mackie could impose on Walker was a pitiful twelve months. Walker has walked out of prison after only six months under the early release scheme which is due to be axed by the Scottish parliament and not before time. First Minister has claimed that the scheme introduced by the Westminster government in 1993, “does not command public confidence” and he is right.

‘Early release scheme does not command public confidence’

Scotland’s First Minister

Had they not been running concurrently, Walker’s sentences for each of his 22 assault convictions would have kept him in prison for a couple more years – a punishment far more fitting to the crime.  Light sentences are not the only concern in the way we tackle domestic violence. The case against Walker succeeded because, although most of the assaults happened in private, the evidence from each of his former wives and step-daughter corroborated the other. Most victims suffer in private, sometimes for years but some do not have another person to corroborate the crime and that’s why the abolition of corroboration is an essential and long overdue reform.

Scottish police now take domestic abuse much more seriously and it is no longer dismissed as ‘just a domestic’. Police Scotland are called to a domestic abuse incident every nine minutes and 11 women were murdered by a partner or ex-partner in Scotland last year. This is not fisticuffs but dangerous criminal behaviour involving threats and abuse, stalking, harassment, attempted murder, serious assault and rape. Some men, like Walker, have committed offences against a number of ex-partners going back years.

Domestic abuse accounts for 15 per cent of all violent crime in Scotland

However, whilst on average police report over three quarters of domestic abuse incidents to the Procurator Fiscal, more than half go no further due to the lack of corroboration. Although the introduction of fast track domestic abuse courts like Glasgow’s has been a great success, violent abusers like Walker are tried mainly in summary proceedings carrying a maximum available sentence of 12 months.

Domestic abuse takes up 20 per cent of Police Scotland’s time

Custody was the only option available to Sheriff Mackie because Walker showed no signs of remorse and denied all charges. It is just a pity that she did not have the power to give Walker a longer prison term. Walker was definitely unsuitable for the Caledonian Programme, Scottish Government’s flag ship mandatory programme for convicted domestic abuse offenders. 

The programme requires men to take responsibility for their crimes and address their criminal behaviour and Walker never has. Sheriff Mackie had no confidence that Walker would succeed on a programme designed to change the attitudes of men who condone domestic abuse. 

At no point did Walker show the slightest remorse for his crimes against the women and in fact he has displayed only contempt for his victims.

Preventing domestic abusers from re-offending and making sure they pose no further threat to their victims must be a key priority for the criminal justice system. Walker’s high profile will at least ensure that his victims know exactly when he is released and in that respect they are luckier than most.

The Scottish Prison Service’s Victim Notification Scheme ensures that victims of violent crimes are told when their attacker is being released but the system only kicks in when the perpetrator has been sentenced to four years or more and the victims requests it. With sentences for most domestic abuse offences limited to 12 months, many victims have no idea when their attacker has been freed, despite the threat that many still pose.

There are many perpetrators of domestic abuse who, like Walker, do not believe they did anything wrong. Changing the way domestic abuse is handled and the attitudes of abusers is a long term project for Scotland. According to international observers Scotland has the most progressive approach to domestic abuse in the UK but as the Walker case demonstrates, we have a long way to go.

Has prison changed Bill Walker’s attitude to his crimes? Probably not.

Has Bill Walker changed ours? It has increased awareness of how domestic abuse makes no distinction in terms of class, status and profile. It has also shone a light on the need for tougher sentencing.

Scottish Prison Service’s Victim Notification Scheme:



365 Poster exhibition hosted by Dumbarton Refuge

Dumbarton District Women’s Aid Hosts celebrated International Women’s Day 2014 by hosting the Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition. Curated by Colm Dempsey , a Child Protection specialist from Dublin, this is 365’s third successful visit to West Dunbartonshire. The exhibition, currently in its tenth year of worldwide touring, was on display in a women’s refuge for the first time. Colm and Dumbarton’s Refuge workers were delighted that the display’s powerful and hard-hitting posters received a positive response from the local community. The invitation-only event proved popular with the general public, refuge residents, Councillors Hazel Sorrel, Jim Brown and Ian Murray and Jackie Baillie MSP.

In a week when disturbing findings from the Europe-wide Violence Against Women Everyday and Everywhere study were published, exhibitions like 365 are still needed to remind us of what goes on in our midst. Of the 42,000 women polled, 33% had experienced physical or sexual violence and 43% had experienced some form of psychological violence by a current or previous partner. West Dunbartonshire figures suggest that the extent of the problem here is similar to the rest of Europe.

International Women’s Day, however, is a good time to celebrate a quiet domestic abuse revolution which has been taking place in West Dunbartonshire over the last decade. By adopting a partnership approach, local agencies have gradually built an extensive range of specialist services and projects for women, children and young people including the Council’s CARA, CEDAR and Criminal Justice Women’s Safety Services, the Reduce Abuse Prevention Project, Dumbarton District and Clydebank Women’s Aid and ASSIST Advocacy Services. The partnership also includes specially trained local Police Scotland officers and together they have transformed the way domestic abuse is dealt with in West Dunbartonshire. This coordinated approach is designed to keep victims safe, help them deal with the impact of the abuse and to make sense of what can often appear a complicated court system. West Dunbartonshire can be proud that its specialist domestic abuse services are helping more and more local women to safely rebuild their lives.

The domestic abuse revolution is not yet complete however and the Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition will doubtless return to remind us of the private atrocities still going on in our midst. However, International Women’s Day 2014 was a good moment to reflect on the distance travelled and to celebrate the part played by local women whose dedication and hard work are making that revolution possible.

Dumbarton District Women’s Aid:
CONFIDENTIAL Domestic Abuse Helpline 01389 751036

For further information on all other local VAW services please call 01389 738680.

In an emergency call 999

National Domestic Abuse helpline: 08000271234

Visit ‘Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition’ on Facebook


Colm Dempsey’s Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition, now in its tenth year of touring, visited Scotland in March 2014.

In an interview with GlasgowAnni, Dubliner Colm describes how the Exhibition came about and the impact it has had on worldwide audiences over the years.

Colm’s interest in domestic abuse was instigated by his feelings of helplessness as a friend and as a police officer when his former (and first) girlfriend disclosed to him about the domestic abuse she was subjected to by her Garda officer husband.

In this extract Colm tells how that love story inspired the creation of 365.

The impact on the audiences who have seen 365 has often been profound.

Listen  as Colm tells the story of one woman for whom seeing the exhibition was life changing.

365 in Dumbarton Women's Aid Refuge

365 in Dumbarton Women’s Aid Refuge

365 in Dumbarton Women's Aid Refuge

365 in Dumbarton Women’s Aid Refuge

Colm Dempsey’s Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition, now in its tenth year of touring, visited Dumbarton Women’s Refuge as part of their International Women’s Day 2014 celebrations.

In an interview with GlasgowAnni, Dubliner Colm tells how the Exhibition came about and the impact it has had over the years.

Colm Dempsey

The idea for the exhibition came to Colm after meeting the late Ellen Pence during a visit to the world famous Duluth Domestic Violence Intervention Project in Minnesota and touring the San Diego Family Justice Centre in 2001. Back at his job as a Garda officer felt that Ireland was ‘centuries behind the U.S. in its approach to domestic violence.   It was like going back in time to the eighteenth century’.

‘Ireland was centuries behind the U.S. in its approach to domestic violence.

It was like going back in time to the eighteenth century.’

Colm’s visit the U.S. in the first place was instigated by his feelings of helplessness as a friend and as a police officer when his former (and first) girlfriend disclosed to him about the domestic abuse she was subjected to by her Garda officer husband. Colm describes how his friend had nowhere to turn and how her difficult situation was made much worse by her husband’s position in the force, describing him as ‘a criminal in uniform’, Colm wanted to know ‘how to do my job better’.

‘a criminal in uniform’

The posters Colm brought back from the States formed the germ of an idea that saw the first 365 exhibition open in Dundalk Museum in 2004 with financial support from the Irish Department of Justice and the attendance of two senior Government Ministers. The exhibition was endorsed by Tanya Brown the sister of Nicole Brown who was murdered by O.J. Simpson.  Tanya wrote the foreword to the exhibition brochure. This created a media storm and generated a great deal of publicity for 365.

Among the visitors to the exhibition was Jan MacLeod of the Women’s Support Project in Glasgow and an invitation to visit Scotland soon followed.

‘I blame Jan MacLeod for everything’

‘I blame Jan MacLeod for everything’ jokes Colm who has since taken his exhibition all over Scotland returning several times to raise awareness of violence against women in Fife, the Western Isles, Glasgow, Edinburgh and West Dunbartonshire. Colm is impressed by Scotland’s national approach to tackling violence against women and thinks people here ‘get it’.

The exhibition has toured the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, has visited thirteen countries to date including U.S.,Canada, Cyprus, Russia and Taiwan and has the prospect of a visit to Norway and a return to Scotland in 2014. Having seen so many different national approaches to violence against women Colm’s view that Scotland is the most advanced of the UK jurisdictions is encouraging. Ireland, in his view, has a a bit of catching up to do.

The impact on the audiences who have seen 365 has often been profound. The visual impact of the at times very hard-hitting posters campaigning against domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse can be disturbing. The many different approaches and designs speak loudly of each country’s priorities and courage in confronting people with such difficult issues. Visiting the exhibition can be demanding for the visitor and comes with a health warning to alert them to what may disturb. Colm recalled the story of one woman from Dumbarton for whom seeing the exhibition was life changing. She told Colm during 365’s second visit to the area that she had been inspired by the exhibition to rethink her life and had since left her abusive partner.  Now happy and settled with a new partner, she put it all down to that first eye opening visit to 365.

Exhibiting 365 in the Women’s Refuge in Dumbarton was a gamble for Colm and organisers Moira Swanson, Chair of the Refuge Management Committee and Refuge Worker Janine Jardine. According to Moira, ‘All of those who attended commented on the visual impact of the exhibition’. Hosting it there also raised the profile of the valuable work being done by Dumbarton District Women’s Aid. ‘Members of the public and local politicians who visited said they didn’t realise all the services offered by West Dunbartonshire Council and also the range of services provided by Women’s Aid…the “not just refuge thing! “’, Moira added, highlighting a common underestimation of what Women’s Aid Groups actually do in addition to running refuges.

local politicians who visited said they didn’t realise… the range of services provided by Women’s Aid…the “not just refuge thing!”

Moira Swanson,  Chair, Dumbarton District Women’s Aid Management Committee 

When he is not touring with his exhibition, Colm is a researcher and Children’s Rights and Child Protection Specialist and Trainer working with  organisations across Ireland. His expertise in domestic abuse and violence against women continues to be focussed on improving the lives of children and young people experiencing domestic abuse. Happily relocated to Galway, Colm can be assured that 365 will continue to inspire people to do their jobs better, to get people talking about the unspeakable and to encourage people to speak out and get the help they need to live their lives free forever of abuse.

365 in Dumbarton Women's Aid Refuge
365 in Dumbarton Women’s Aid Refuge
Dumbarton District Women’s Aid:
CONFIDENTIAL Domestic Abuse Helpline 01389 751036

Visit Violence Againsnt Women 365 International Poster Exhibition on Facebook

FRA report image004

Results from the world’s biggest ever survey on Violence Against Women reveal one third of women are affected.

Revealing the extent of abuse suffered by women at home, work, in public and online, results are shown at European Union and national level. Published by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) the pan-European survey interviewed 42,000 randomly selected women (an average of 1,500 respondents per country) aged 18-74 years. Findings also show the extent of physical and sexual violence experienced by women in childhood.

These survey figures simply cannot and should not be ignored.

FRA’s survey shows that physical, sexual and psychological violence against women is an

extensive human rights abuse in all EU Member States”


“The enormity of the problem is proof that violence against women does

not just impact a few women only it impacts on society every day.

Measures tackling violence against women need to be taken to a new level now.”     

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum

Findings show that

  • 33% of women ( 62 million women) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15
  • 22% have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner
  • 5% of all women have been raped
  • Almost one in 10 women who have experienced sexual violence by a non-partner, indicate that more than one
  • perpetrator was involved in the most serious incident
  • 43% have experienced some form of psychological violence by either a current or a previous partnersuch as public humiliation; forbidding a woman to leave the house or locking her up; forcing her to watch pornography; and threats of violence.
  • 33% have childhood experiences of physical or sexual violence at the hands of an adult.
  • 12% had childhood experiences of sexual violence of which half were from men they did not know
  • 18% of women have experienced stalking since the age of 15 and 5% in the 12 months prior to the interview – a total of 9 million women
  • 21% of women who have experienced stalking said that it lasted for over 2 years
  • 11% of women have experienced inappropriate advances on social websites or have been subjected to sexually explicit emails or text (SMS) messages.
  • 20% of young women (18-29) have been victims of such cyber harassment
  • 55% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment



GlasgowAnni passes up chance to appear on Channel 4’s Strippers

Walking with friends on Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night recently, we were stopped by two enthusiastic young people, one shouldering a heavy video camera, asking if they could interview us for a new Channel Four documentary about lap dancing clubs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Edinburgh.

My friends pointed and said ‘Interview Anni!’. They were filming a number of vox pop interviews to get a feel for Glasgow city centre at night. I agreed to be interviewed, the young man took my name and telephone number and the young woman started the interview.

Channel 4 interview We’ve been filming in lap- dancing clubs and interviewing the lap-dancers.  

What do you think about those clubs?’

I told her she might regret asking me, that I work in services for women and children affected by all forms of violence against women and also as a researcher; that there were many like me who considered lap-dancing clubs to be a form of commercial sexual exploitation; that women and their bodies are not commodities to be sold for profit and that such exploitation is a function of women’s inequality… She caught my drift.

 ‘What about women’s choice?’

‘Do you think women are free to chose that if they want?

‘What about women’s choice?’, she asked. ‘Do you think women are free to chose that if they want?’. ‘Sure,’ I replied, ‘but how many other choices did they have before choosing to work as a lap dancer?’ I went on to say that, as with prostitution, women mostly get involved through economic necessity.

‘The young women enjoy their work”

‘The young women enjoy their work’ she replied. I said , ‘It is not for me to say what women can or cannot do, it is their decision and I just wish there were other ways they could make a living. Did you talk to the men who use the clubs too?’ I asked, and she said they had. We finished the interview and went our separate ways, they were off chasing their next interviewee, quickly swallowed up by Sauchiehall Street’s joyous Saturday night pavement crowds.

I immediately begin to have doubts about participating as I had no idea what their approach to the subject would be. I am no fan of Channel 4’s relentless output of reality shows and know that skillful editing can skew content to fit a particular narrative. Caught up in the moment, I had rushed into participation based on skant information with my friends thinking it was a great wheeze. So what was I consenting to? In truth, I had no idea.

Television reality shows offer ordinary folks a brief moment of celebrity but the unintended consequences can be risky in the longer term. The world is full of post-reality show casualties unable to dismount the carousel and further multiplying the media capital being made of them. A life lived however briefly on television or exposed on social media can end in regrets about that naïve personal disclosure, unfortunate facebook post or embarrassing selfie. These things can come back to haunt older, wiser moments.

Appearances on reality shows are fixed in time and offer a one dimensional snapshot of a life fitting only the programme makers’ agenda. However, it wasn’t my own random vox pop I was worried about but the atmosphere of the whole programme itself. I wasn’t sure I liked the smell of it. A few weeks after the interview, I withdrew my consent to take part. Part one of ‘Strippers’ aired on Channel 4 last week.


Channel 4’s Strippers –  The reality of Glasgow’s Lap-dancing club scene

Episode 1 of ‘Strippers’ focused on the dancers and customers in Glasgow’s Diamond Dolls lap-dancing club, one of the biggest in Europe. The film itself, showing young women dancing for the male customers was commercial sexual exploitation masquerading as… I don’t know if it was masquerading as anything, a programme called ‘Strippers’ is hardly posing as serious critique… and is not even about ‘strippers’. 

The film clearly showed where the power lay in the whole business. Working through its formidable ‘house mother’ and manager, herself a former dancer, the skill and beauty of the women dancers were schooled and repackaged in the club’s house style as writhing untouchable sexual avatars. The male customers, including many young men, at whom the whole sorry business is aimed, was also exploited as the ‘house mother’ openly admitted. Like automatons they are primed to spend substantial amounts of money being sexually and very publicly aroused on cue and having to pay extra if they wanted a more ‘private’ experience. One lonely divorced regular took sweeties for the ‘girls’ and referred to them as being like his ‘family’.

The commercial exploitation of sex and sexuality dehumanises everyone involved. The women are not paid for dancing but for any ‘private’ booth dances requested by the customer. The men choose who they want and pay extra. Although they could make good money, the young women competing for those lucrative opportunities spoke about disassociating and having to think of other things while they are dancing, of putting their own sexuality on hold, of having to hide their job from their family and how it changed the way they thought about themselves. If it is a legitimate career choice, as the manager implied, it is certainly having a profoundly negative effect on the young women working there.

To its credit, ‘Strippers’ let the women and men tell their own stories, offered a rare glimpse into the ambiguities going on behind those blacked-out, windowless city shop-fronts and left viewers to make up their own minds. However, by avoiding any critique it effectively normalised an aspect of our increasingly sexualised popular culture, further entrenched negative attitudes towards women and treated the men like jerks. The impact on young people, like the young dancers and customers in the programme is particularly worrying.

Recent research carried out by Zero Tolerance in Scotland found that young people are regularly faced with some toxic choices about sex and sexuality. Expectations placed on young women to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and to act sexually are high, yet they are denigrated if they go too far and get that delicate balance wrong. Similarly, young men are pressurised to conform to a heterosexual masculinity focussed on the relentless pursuit of sex, on watching and approving of pornography and sexualising women and girls. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Happily, the young women dancers featured in the first programme have since chosen to give up lap-dancing and are moving in new and altogether different directions. One finally told her parents where she was working and disappeared from the second half of the programme…. thereby may hang a difficult sequel to her tale. Another packed up and went back to her nursing career in Estonia having failed to earn the money she had hoped for – glad to get away from negative effect the work was having on her personality. Another, a former champion gymnast, is making a new career and future for herself a world away from lap-dancing. With luck, the media’s memories of them all will fade.

Will those men caught getting aroused on camera by the women above their laps (not on…never on…no touching allowed) ever live it down? Will they take a tumble to themselves, stop going there and start living real lives, in real intimate relationships where there is love, affection, genuine sexual freedom and equality? That appearance on Strippers might just check that particular reality.

“He’s the stud, she’s the slut”: Young people’s attitudes to pornography, sex and relationships report.

Part Two of Strippers – 10.00 p.m. On Channel 4, Tuesday 4 March 2014.


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