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Working to end sexual violence

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When we talk about sexual violence, we must remember that survivors are in the room.

‘When you say “I’m a survivor” everybody just stops in their tracks and doesn't know how to communicate with you. They could have known you for like, months and months and had great conversations but the minute you mentioned that it's like “oh, how do I talk to you?” I think that's down to the media because we aren't having that proper conversation.’

This quote comes from Lisa, a member of the Survivor Reference Group (SRG). The SRG is a diverse participation group of over 50 survivors from across Scotland who advocate powerfully for change, drawing on their lived experience with individuals and institutions to improve responses to sexual violence.

What is the Forensic Medical Services Act and what does it mean for survivors?

What is it?

The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 is a change in the law which came into effect on 1st April 2022, that changes the way that survivors can access Forensic Medical Exams (FMEs) after a rape or sexual assault.

An FME is an examination performed by a specially trained healthcare professional to collect forensic evidence after a rape or sexual assault. You can usually access an FME for up to 7 days after the assault(s). After this window, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that evidence could be gathered.

The Vulnerability of Women With No Recourse to Public Funds, Sexual Violence and Exploitation

We live in a country that speaks so much of being tolerant, inclusive, and welcoming but this does not always match up with what is happening on the ground.

There are women in Scotland who have fled all sorts of dangers who are navigating life in this country whilst struggling with the traumas associated to being trafficked for sex, being subjected to marital rape, the victimhood of war related rape and sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. The harsh reality is that immigration policy dictates that many of these women do not qualify to stay in women’s refuges or temporary accommodation.

Most of us assume that women’s organisations would be able to support us should we need it. Yet, people working in these organisations know that harsh immigration policy means that not everyone is able to access support. What do I mean by that? Not having the “correct” immigration status impacts on the kind of help available.

The Nationality and Borders Bill Threatens The Safety and Rights of Already Marginalised Women

The hostile environment policies of Westminster are designed to do exactly what they say on the tin; create such dangerous and inhumane conditions that migrants who are here feel pushed to leave and individuals fleeing abuse, conflict and persecution seek their right to asylum elsewhere. Repeatedly, these policies have been found to breach human and legal rights.

There is already overwhelming evidence that illustrates the barriers created by these policies for migrant women who have experience domestic abuse, rape or sexual assault. These policies create conditions where many migrant women feel even more trapped in their circumstances and unable to access support. Thankfully, many organisations, in particular those focused on racially minoritised women, have repeatedly gone above and beyond to provide access to support for women experiencing these migration conditions.

The Nationality and Borders Bill (currently being debated in the House of Lords) takes the current hostile environment policies to a whole new level, allowing unprecedented power to the Home Office and embedding bigotry into law. The UNHRC has given a damning response to the proposed asylum processes, stating; “UNHCR believes the UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill would penalise most refugees seeking asylum in the country, creating an asylum model that undermines established international refugee protection rules and practices.”

On Progress And Hope

When Raith Rovers FC broke the news at 10.30pm last Monday night that they had just signed a rapist we were quite sure they hoped this fact would pass unnoticed.

Fortunately, they misjudged Raith Rovers FC fans, sponsors, staff, volunteers and the Scottish public. They underestimated the hurt and anger that they would cause, and the strong belief that people should be held accountable for their actions, and not placed in positions where they might be celebrated as heroes, role models for younger generations to look up to.

So often we speak of the challenges that survivors experience, and the attitudes that stop people from being able to get support and justice.

Raith Rovers FC’s initial response to the backlash was disgraceful. They claimed that first and foremost this was a ‘football related decision’ as though you can separate a man, his actions, and his refusal to accept any responsibility or show any remorse from his ability to kick a ball.

But despite this today is a day to speak about progress. Because although the messy events of this week have been difficult – in particular for survivors - the fury that met the management of Raith Rovers FC, and the fact that fans and the public made it an absolute no go for them to continue Goodwillie’s contract, is extraordinary. There are no doubt unanswered questions and concerns now that Raith Rovers FC have u-turned, but those who fought this and put principle before personal interest should be proud.

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