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Highland women's group urges communities to stand against gender-based violence

By Neil MacPhail

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Ness Bridge will be going orange.
Ness Bridge will be going orange.

THE Highland Violence Against Women Partnership with other organisations across the Highlands and Islands, are urging communities to take a stand against gender-based violence during the 16 Days of Activism November 25 to December 10.

The partnership, which includes 13 organisations, is calling on the public to take a pledge and share what they will do to help end violence against women and girls using the #WhatWillYouDo hashtag on social media.

On Thursday (25 November), the Ness Bridge will be lit up in orange, the colour of the global 16 Days of Activism, to launch the campaign and shine a light on the often hidden issue. Other light-up events will be taking place throughout Scotland.

This is the second year that these organisations have come together to jointly campaign for 16 Days. Last year, the group aimed to show the impact of gender-based violence in our rural communities and asked people to share what they would like to see change. This year, the group are calling for people to be part of creating the change.

James Maybee, principal officer for criminal justice services for Highland Council and depute chairman of the Highland Violence Against Women Partnership, said: “Violence against women and girls is absolutely everyone’s business. We believe that everyone has a role to play - whether it's challenging harmful behaviours and attitudes, supporting survivors, or holding perpetrators to account.

“We are therefore asking for people to declare what they will do to help end violence against women and girls by sharing their #WhatWillYouDo message on social media and encouraging others to do the same.”

In Scotland, at least four out of five incidents of domestic abuse recorded by Police Scotland have a female victim and a male accused. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence, and other forms of violence.

Yet violence against women has too often been regarded as a problem for women to solve. Prevention messages that focus on women’s behaviour are not only ineffective, but contribute to harmful beliefs that victims are somehow to blame for what happens to them.

Mr Maybee adds: “Men can make a difference by changing the way they talk about women and talk to women. The recent Don’t Be That Guy campaign provides a powerful message for men to look at their own actions and how they can hold each other to account and prevent abuse.”

It is estimated that domestic abuse costs the Scottish public purse £2.3 billion and violence against women and girls costs Scotland £4 billion. Gender-based violence can also have devastating and life-long impacts on survivors and their families.

Elaine Fetherston, manager, Inverness Women’s Aid, said: “As frontline third sector organisations, we see the impact of violence and abuse on women, children and young people every day. This campaign gives us all the chance to make this headline news – violence against women has become normalised and this has to be challenged now.”

Women’s Aid have offices across the Highlands and Islands, providing support clients by phone, text, email, and social media, and continue to accept new referrals from women, children, young people, and partner agencies.

Rape Crisis Centres are also available to provide emotional support and practical information to anyone over the age of 13 who has experienced sexual violence. Services are confidential and provide a safe space for survivors.

Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett, Divisional Commander, Highland and Islands division, Police Scotland said: “Woman and girls should be able to go about their daily lives without fear or the threat of violence. As divisional dommander and #HeForShe lead for Police Scotland, I pledge my full support to the 16 days of activism campaign.

"We do not and will not tolerate violence against woman and girls within our communities. We will continue to conduct robust, victim-centred, perpetrator-focused investigations into reports of this type of offending and along with our partners will ensure victims are supported.

"However, it is up to all us, men especially, to challenge male attitudes, to not be That Guy and to end violence against women and girls.”

Highland Council’s Executive Chief Officer for Health, Social Care and Wellbeing, Fiona Duncan, said: “Violence against women is a human rights issue and is one of the most prevalent human rights abuses across the world.

“We need collective ceadership to take action and the Highland Violence Against Women Partnership plays a key role in providing that leadership. We would encourage people to speak up and tell the world about your pledge by posting your own #WhatWillYouDo message on social media.”

For more information, details of the campaign partners, and to download a #WhatWillYouDo placard, go to www.changeherstory.co.uk

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