This week saw the launch of a groundbreaking and vital new specialist health service in Glasgow for survivors of sexual violence.
The My Body Back project, which is based at the Sandyford Centre in Glasgow, is an excellent example of the way that when services are ‘trauma-informed’ [increasingly a focus for health and support services in Scotland, as well as for workplaces more generally and recognised through support from the Scottish Government] they can far more effectively meet the needs of survivors of sexual violence (as well as others who have undergone traumatic experiences) than many mainstream services do. My Body Back embodies within the services it offers the recognition that many survivors of sexual violence can for a number of reasons, face difficulties in accessing health services and screenings, because of what they have experienced.
Today in the Scottish Parliament a special event is being held to highlight the publication of a new NSPCC report which reveals a dearth of specialist services across the country for children who have experienced sexual violence.
The new report: ‘The Right to Recover’ covers the West of Scotland from the Western Isles down to Dumfries & Galloway, and the NSPPC has found that more than half of the 17 councils it looked at in West and Central Scotland have no specialist service for children of primary school age who need help, while 15 of the 17 have no service for children aged under five years.
The narrative of the case currently receiving widespread publicity, in which a woman is seeking a private prosecution for rape, is very familiar to us at Rape Crisis Scotland.
We frequently speak to rape survivors who feel very let down by the justice system, and who feel strongly the need to seek justice, no matter the cost to them personally. We are seeing increasing numbers of women considering other routes to justice, after failing to obtain this from the criminal justice system. In our experience, giving up on the notion of ever getting justice can be one of the most difficult things for rape survivors to come to terms with.
Some of the most powerful and impactful messages about sexual violence are the result of visually creative and artistic responses to the issue.
Collette Howie is a Quilter who has been involved for the past two years in the creation of a collaborative quilt through the Instagram quilting community. Responding to the widespread publicity surrounding the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012, and the rape culture evident in Roosh V and similar stories, Collette and her creative collaborators decided to raise awareness of and to protest sexual violence globally through a quilting project which they hope will highlight consent and rape culture in a new and arresting way. Collette describes the development of the project below:
the face of it, legislation in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, provides
strong protection for children under 13 from rape.
Under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, children under 13 are deemed incapable of consenting to sex. There is no defence of mistake in age, making it what is called a strict liability crime. To prove rape of a young child (defined as under 13), the Crown need to prove that penile penetration took place, and that the penetration was by the accused. Unlike other rape cases where the complainer is over the age of 13, they do not need to prove lack of consent of the complainer or lack of reasonable belief in consent on the part of the accused. This is because children under the age of 13 are considered incapable of meaningfully consenting to a sexual relationship.
[Image by Ben Seidelmann from Flickr, reproduced under Creative Commons licence]