Archives for posts with tag: #wecanstopit

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This article was written for The National Saturday 29 August 2015

I was delighted, and genuinely surprised, to be announced the winner of the inaugural Write to End Violence Against Women Awards in 2013.

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Since then, Scotland has witnessed a dramatic shift in its political landscape which included some devastating critiques of mainstream media and its messages. Civic Scotland brushed off its ideas, flexed its debating muscles as the independence referendum campaign warmed up and new voices began to emerge.  Among those who  ‘dared to dream’ that ‘another Scotland was possible’ were women ready to challenge a deeply macho culture once described as ‘cold and hostile to women’s lives and values’.  Bloggers, freelance journalists, writers, artists and commentators created a new estate of citizen journalism.  The bandwidth broadened, women’s space for debate and critique opened up and all of a sudden it was open season on Scotland’s gender architecture.  What the referendum started now stubbornly refuses to go away and the momentum has not diminished one jot.

Groups like Women for Independence offer online and village hall platforms for women’s concerns and safe places to discuss them. What most Scottish women have known for years is now part of the national conversation: women are still not equal, get paid less than men, do most of the caring and have less political and economic power than men. There is now growing public concern that children are growing up in a culture full of inequality, everyday sexism and all forms of violence against women.  The scandal of high reported rates of these forms of violence has now entered public debate, is a focus for Government action and placing new demands on print and online media to bring their news values into the twenty first century. The Write to End Violence Against Women Awards cleverly caught the zeitgeist in 2013 when they demanded the media raise the bar in its coverage of violence against women.

Now in 2015 there is a growing public appetite for debate on these issues and the old dismissals no longer wash.  People are joining the dots between women’s persistent inequality and the many forms of violence against women such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, child sexual abuse, prostitution and pornography.  The prevalence of these crimes is a national scandal with no place in modern Scotland.  Their roots lie in laws only repealed in the nineteenth century whereby wives and children were the property of husbands or fathers who had the right to ‘chastise’ them.   While these laws were eventually repealed, unfortunately the attitudes to women which went along with them display remarkable longevity.   None more visible than those in much of our popular culture which continues to demean women, treat them as sex objects in ways which subliminally reinforce women’s second class status.

The good news is that some surprising heavy hitters are now joining the fight back.  A recent controversial media campaign against rape #WeCanStopIt had Rape Crisis Scotland and Police Scotland joining forces to get the message out. #EndProstitutionNow, a campaigning coalition which aims to do what it says on the tin is fronted by a fully on-message Glasgow City Councillor.   Clever PR is now unleashing these issues on an utterly changed Scottish media landscape.  Two years down the line gender is on the national agenda and violence against women is emerging from behind those closed doors to where it should be – right up front in the public eye.

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Rape Crisis Scotland and Police Scotland have launched a high profile media campaign to tackle rape.  The latest phase of the #WeCanStopIt rape prevention campaign is aimed at 16-27 year old men – an age group who commit one third of reported rapes in Scotland. Young women in the same age group are also the most vulnerable to attack.

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A hard hitting post-watershed TV and viral ad shifts the focus to potential perpetrators and sends out the message that sex without consent is rape.   Sandy Brindley, confirming Rape Crisis’ commitment to the campaign said “The law is clear – sex without consent is rape, but we need to do much more to increase public awareness around this issue.”  Chief Constable Sir Stephen House echoed this, “Sex without consent is rape.  There are no excuses.”

Recent revelations about US comedian Bill Cosby show his widespread use of sedatives on his victims prior to sexually assaulting them.  Cosby claimed he used drugs to ‘facilitate consensual sex’. Men like Cosby don’t use drugs to gain consent but to prevent women from saying no!  Cosby’s victims’ stories show the importance of focussing on the legal issue of consent in rape cases as Scot’s law now does.

Scottish law on rape and sexual assault changed in 2009 and is quite clear that rape occurs where the victim does not consent and the person responsible has no ‘reasonable belief’ that the victim is consenting.  If the victim is incapable of consenting then it is likely a crime has been committed. A woman’s use of drugs or alcohol is not an invitation to rape.   Consent can also be withdrawn at any point even if a couple have already had sex. Prior intimacy is no invitation to rape either – rape in marriage is illegal.

Rape is not ‘having sex with someone’, you cannot have sex “with” another person if that person is unconscious, asleep or unwilling.  With implies free agreement.  Rape is something a rapist does to another person and potential rapists are being told in no uncertain terms that the victims’ rights supercede theirs.  With most rapes are carried out in private by people who know their victim, coupled with public attitudes to victims this has until now made reporting a rape a daunting prospect.

With this campaign the focus shifts to potential perpetrator of rape.  The message is clear: rape is the responsibility of the rapist and involves a decision they make.   The prevalence of sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment in young people’s lives is higher than it should be.  While women are mostly the victims, boys and men are also victims.

The aftermath of a rape or sexual assault can have devastating consequences. Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline is there to talk confidentially to victims who can often feel isolated and worried about speaking about their experiences to friends or family.

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Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland work closely with Police Scotland’s RapeTask Force who are ready to provide a sympathetic response. There is a great deal of excellent work going on in Scotland to tackle all forms of sexual violence and other forms of violence against women. This is the latest national initiative to send out the message that the days of so-called ‘rape culture’ in Scotland are numbered.

If you are affected by any of these issues, please contact:

In an emergency call:  999

National rape and sexual assault helpline:  Freephone 08088 01 03 02

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