WELCOME TO THE STAND UP! RASASH BLOG.
Let's take a stand against sexual violence!
The #metoo hashtag started trending last week, encouraging anyone who had experienced harassment, abuse or assault to post #metoo to ‘show the extent of the problem’. Hashtag campaigns, by their nature, scrape the surface. You cannot fit a nuanced explanation of the varied impacts of the patriarchy into 140 characters, or find one short phrase which will summarise how all survivors feel. This is possibly why half of my friends have been very keen on the campaign, with many sharing their own experiences, and the other half are significantly less keen on survivors being responsible for raising awareness of the very violence which was committed against them.
The wider response to the campaign has had many expressing shock at the number of posts prompted by the hashtag, but the statistics on sexual violence are readily available: 90% of women have been catcalled, 10, 273 sexual offences were reported to Police Scotland in 2015-16, 16% of boys will be victims of childhood sexual abuse, 1 in 10 women in Scotland have been raped. Although there is less awareness of how these issues affect boys and LGBT people, how common it is for women to experience sexual violence is hardly shocking news to anyone who has been willing to listen. (As a case in point, the #metoo campaign itself was actually started 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke, but took off again when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the idea last week - indicative not just of how hard it is to be heard when you speak about violence, but of who is more likely to be listened to.) Although realising that these statistics connect to people you know is jarring, the level of surprise in the media begs the question why people need to be shown time and time again that these are the intimate, painful ways that individual women have suffered before they will acknowledge that this is a problem.
One purpose of the hashtag was to raise awareness, but it has also prompted survivors to express how they feel. The power of breaking the silence around sexual violence can be huge but the emotions behind someone choosing to tell their story are extremely complicated and personal. For some, the unity of a hashtag that lets them declare what happened to them will be freeing. A person who has had to tolerate the unwanted compliments of the ticket man on the train every day may well feel that the anger that has built up would be well expressed through a defiant tweet. Someone who has had similar daily attention but from an employer with the ability to fire them may feel differently.
We know how hard it is for people to talk about sexual violence. The reality is that there will be a significant number of people who have experienced sexual violence who will not feel comfortable revealing that on the internet who we are therefore not seeing in this discussion. For many, the barriers created by their trauma, the shame instilled in them by their abuser, the cultural background they are from, the ongoing presence of the abuser in their life, the gender role that society presents them with will all mean that speaking out in any way - let alone on social media - does not feel like a viable option.
Although there are similarities between the experiences of survivors of sexual violence, no two people will ever feel completely the same about what happened to them. It is worth considering how people with different identities and different stories may relate to the #metoo campaign and feel excluded from it. After all, if this is a conversation about survivors, it should be a conversation which is mindful of all survivors. Drawing upon the shared knowledge we have as women can help us support each other but it is also important to recognise our differences as we witness each other’s truth. This is what allows us to move beyond our own experiences to an awareness of collective experience.
The people I have seen posting on social media do not all have the exact same story. The thing they have in common is they all live in a patriarchal culture that normalises such violence. #Metoo focuses on the victims. It does not shine the spotlight on the people who are truly responsible for the prevention of sexual violence: the people who commit it. Nor does it highlight the gendered power imbalances, male entitlement and objectification which are the overarching causes of rape, abuse and harassment. Female survivors have been speaking out for decades and progress has been hard earned. Perhaps the real issue is that the people with the ability to change the rate of sexual violence - perpetrators, legislators, bystanders - are not listening. If we truly want to raise awareness to prevent violence, they need to be our focus.
Hopefully, what #metoo has been is a chance for some survivors not to feel alone. It has been a chance to be heard and a chance to listen, to find and give support, to show compassion in response to vulnerability. Although the majority of men sympathetic to the cause may well have already been aware of the reach and impact of male violence, or be survivors themselves, perhaps for some this has been a wake-up call. If you are a survivor who has been empowered to speak out by this campaign, we hear you. If you feel the need to talk further then I urge you to reach out to a friend who you can trust, a reputable helpline or a local support centre. If you are a survivor who has found this a reminder of how silenced you are or who has found the hashtag triggering, then look after yourself and know that we care anyway, whether we know the details of your pain or not. But if you are a man who feels upset by the number of posts you’ve seen, then do not let this feeling go unused. Do not let that discomfort pass you by and settle yourself back into more familiar patterns. Here are some resources that might help you be better at challenging predatory behaviour or supporting survivors.
Because ultimately fixing male violence isn’t on us. It’s on you.
Last week my phone automatically updated all my apps, as it always does. Completely unbeknownst to me, there was a rather sinister new addition to one of my favourite social media apps. I had clicked onto snapchat without paying much attention and accidentally enabled a new feature called ‘snap maps’, later that evening I discovered this new update had been sharing my location for all my snapchat friends to see for several hours. I was understandably horrified and frantically started to search for a way to get rid of it.
This update places your ‘character’ on a map and means that everybody you are friends with on the app can see your location, right down to the exact address you are at. It even goes as far as to show your character in a car if you are driving to a new location! Terrifying huh?
This complete invasion of privacy got me thinking about the very real risks that an update of this nature could pose. It makes it so easy for somebody to discover where you live or work, to work out your travel routes and where you like to socialise; raising the risk of harassment, stalking, or cyber bullying a significant amount. The potential for sexual violence surely increases when an update like this provides such easy access to private information and a live account of our every movements. We now live in a society where everything we do is documented and with the internet evolving at a rate that none of us can keep up with, I think this new update hits home that the onus is now placed on each of us individually to protect ourselves online as big companies, like snapchat, do not.
This cyber ‘responsibility’ now placed on each of us means that large organisations are not really held to account for our online safety. There needs to be far more done to help protect us all, and to help us protect ourselves. I think snapchat users should have been made fully aware exactly what this update was and how to protect yourself whilst using it, well in advance of it being available. I also would argue that the ‘opt out’ approach was the wrong one and an ‘opt in’ one would have perhaps reduced the numbers of those using it. Finally, there should definitely be an age restriction for a feature like this. It has been most popular with children and young people so now we must all try to raise awareness of the real threat this update poses to our safety if left on.
To turn it off: access maps on your Snapchat by pinching your fingers inwards together, doing this allows you to see a map with lots of characters. Click on your character and then on settings. There will then be an option called ‘ghost mode’ putting this on means your character and location will be hidden. I have also attached a link to a YouTube video which shows you how to make this change to your account if you need further help.
New law in Scotland now means that you can face up to five years in prison for sharing intimate images or videos of somebody without their consent. These type of attacks, tagged as ‘revenge porn’, are becoming increasingly more common.
As a young woman in my early twenties I have grown up in a generation who document everything online and this kind of crime seems to be happening all the time. Regularly we see cases of celebrity victims of revenge porn in the media, usually followed by a stream of comments about how you shouldn’t take or send images/videos of this nature if you don’t want people to see them. I was so glad to see that nowhere in the Scottish Government’s campaign does it place any blame on the victims of these crimes. Just last week there was yet another case in the media where we saw Rob Kardashian share intimate images, and personal texts, from his ex Blac Chyna which he claimed was payback for alleged cheating and drug taking. Many media outlets jumped on this story and demonised Blac Chyna as a result. This suggests that there are justifications for this type of behaviour, which there never, ever is.
A response like this is what creates the idea that if people take images of this nature they are then responsible if somebody then shares them without their consent. It’s not surprising that victims of this kind of crime find it difficult to report it when they see the mass media responding in this way. Modern technology makes it very easy to inflict revenge like this and therefore we could all be at risk and must stand up and challenge this attitude.
After speaking to a few of my friends it seems to be clear that although this new law goes a long way towards protecting victims; education alongside this law is key. A shift in attitude is needed to help those who have been through this with their healing and recovery, as well as to reduce the risk of crimes like this happening in the first place. Revenge porn is surrounded by so much victim blaming that I think it has now become an almost instant response. There is an expectation that we are responsible for our online safety and therefore blame is placed on the individual automatically, without real thought. Revenge porn is a complete violation of privacy and trust which has been made so easy due to the instant nature of social media. This is why I think education from a young age is so key, people can post in a moment of anger or upset and suddenly it’s out there for the world to see. Understanding the true impact of this crime is so important for prevention yet more often than not this is the part we don’t see in the media. Awareness of the long-term impact this has on a person; the emotional trauma, the potential difficulty in finding new jobs or relationships, as well as pursuing legal proceedings, is so important to break stigma. If we saw that side, perhaps there would be more public outcry at the mere six months’ imprisonment that Rob Kardashian could potentially face for his crimes. There is definitely a way to go in addressing the stigma around revenge porn but I hope that Scotland’s new law will encourage people to question their own countries revenge porn legislation and begin to challenge this victim blaming culture that shrouds these crimes.
The Scottish Government are running a campaign called #notyourstoshare alongside this law, check out their website for more info and please continue to raise awareness and break stigma by sharing this post, perhaps challenging a friend on their views, or simply watching the video below. However you choose to get involved, thank you for helping to protect each other and creating a safer Scotland.
The Scottish Government website and campaign is called #notyourstoshare check out their video below.
Back in the Spring, one of Stand Up's Young Ambassadors, Megan, and two friends took part in the YPI at their school, representing RASASH and winning £3000 for us.
In this blog, Megan explains the process and reflects on their experience.
by Megan Lowson, Stand Up Ambassador
(pictured centre, with Iona (left) and Katie (right)
YPI stands for Youth and Philanthropy Initiative and was set up to encourage young people to consider charities and perhaps even philanthropy. We were to make up a group of at least 3 people and select a local charity to do a presentation on. The presentation could last a maximum of 10 minutes. The presentation was not only for the charity but to show team work and cooperation and social skills. After the set deadline all presentations were to be finished and presented in class. The class teacher would then pick a maximum number of two groups who would proceed to the final. After the final group has presented for their chosen charity on the day of the finals, the judge(s) then has to make a decision on the top three. However only the group in first place would win the prize of £3000 for their represented charity.
At first, the three of us were stuck for ideas on who to do the project on but it didn’t take long for me to suggest that we do RASASH as I had recently become an Ambassador for them and the £3000 grant could be of great use to the charity.
But when it came to thinking of ideas that could possible make us some sort of competition, we had none. If I were to be honest I would say that what we did was more than random but we figured it would work out better than nothing. We had one of our members draw out a story board of a situation where our young adult, female character had been married. But as time went on her partner grew more and more controlling towards her by, at first, sexually harassing her which then became rape. We didn’t want anything to graphic so we decided each time something like rape or harassment would happen that Liz, our female character, would be dragged off by her husband Steve to their room and the door would then be slammed shut. We originally had 4 days in which this happened which in totally would have been a 6-minute-long video so we decided on cutting it right down to the perfect length. Although it had an impact on the story line, we all thought that in the end it was better than before.
'Liz's Story' - The animation the team made that impressed the judges. Drawings by Iona.
We also had to do a spoken presentation to go with our animation. So we had decided that another one of the three members of our small group were to do that which I had also had a minor part in. The speech mention why rape and sexual harassment isn’t acceptable and what kind of effects it can all have on a survivor. We also managed to include the contact details of the charity and why RASASH would benefit from the money.
With it all being rehearsed we felt ready but nervous and after presenting and waiting we finally had a result. Our hard work and showing how much effort and how passionate we really were about the cause managed to win us the grant. We all hope that it will do some good for RASASH as we do feel passionately about what the charity does to help and support survivors and their loved ones.
We had chosen RASASH not only because I was an Ambassador but also because we all felt like the word needed to be spread about the charity and their amazing work.
Last but not least I would like to say that we all got some new experience and knowledge from doing the project. I felt like I had gotten more confidence speaking out in front of an audience of people. Iona had gotten more drawing experience and Katie had a chance to also improve her confidence and speech skills.
The £3000 the team won will go a long way to helping RASASH increase our reach across Highland - supporting as many survivors of sexual violence as we can. However, RASASH is a charitable voluntary organisation and we rely on donations and fundraising to help keep us afloat. If you would like to help us fundraise you can find ideas and information on how to do so here.
by Rebecca Fletcher, RASASH Volunteer and former intern
Sat in the cinema watching Wonder Woman I could have burst with excitement. I experienced what I can only imagine a little boy feels when he watches a superhero movie and sees himself in the protagonist. Thirty minutes in I had already decided that this had to be one of the best films OF ALL TIME. So here is a list of reasons why Wonder Woman kicks ass:
1. Not only is the lead character Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) played by the incredible Gal Gadot, but it’s directed by a woman too - Patty Jenkins. Without a doubt this film also passes The Bechdel Test, which if you’ve never heard of it is a three part rule which stipulates that a film: 1 must have at least two female characters with names, 2 who talk to one another, 3 about something other than men. In the opening scenes we see Diana growing up on an idyllic island inhabited only by women who spend their time training in combat and talking about the necessity of preventing war. Awesome.
2. Wonder Woman’s strength lies as much in her “traditionally feminine” qualities as in her fighting ability. Yes, the fight scenes are epic and Diana’s super powers are amazing but there is no endless stream of pointless gratuitous violence. She believes in the goodness of people, shows compassion towards enemies, and seeks peace (rather than revenge for the death of her wife/father/child… insert other action movie trope here). Of course there is violence in this film, it is essential to the genre, but unnecessary conflict is avoided where possible. Diana acts in self-defence and to protect others, forever mindful of civilian casualties.
3. Diana experiences a “benevolent” form of everyday sexism coming from men with “good intentions”. The best part is that she totally brushes it off and speaks her mind un-apologetically. At one point her romantic interest Steve tries to stop her from causing a scene by interrupting her constantly and attempting to hold her back. She carries on in spite of this, calling a room full of old white men cowards before storming out dramatically. And when Steve’s Secretary Etta explains what her job is (“I go where he tells me to go”), Diana points out that her culture would consider this slavery. Wonder Woman is underestimated, undermined, and doubted throughout but she never loses sight of her mission (even when she doubts her own power), leaving everyone around her in awe.
4. There is a refreshing lack of sexualised female suffering and glamourised sexual violence. Female characters die from battle wounds and their deaths are not merely a device that propels a man into action by avenging her. In fact everyone’s suffering (faceless enemies played by extras included) is humanised. And yes it is totally messed up that one of the reasons I love this film is because women aren’t abused as disposable objects, that should be the norm.
5. The inevitable romantic subplot is not a mere distraction from the main event or an excuse to see more of the sexy female love interest. Rather, the sexual tension between Diana and Steve subverts typical gender dynamics in ways that are both humorous and touching. Interestingly the only nudity is of the male variety as Steve experiences what can only be described as the “female gaze”. In another scene, when things appear to be heating up, Diana explains that she has read a lot about pleasure and concludes that men are not essential to this. Centre female sexuality and pleasure in the conversation? Check.
6. The film’s characters teach us a valuable lesson about Bystander Intervention: everyone can do something to intervene when they see something wrong in the world. As Steve says, “You can do something or you can do nothing”. Wonder Woman’s story is an important reminder that even if it seems like it’s not your war to fight, you can be an ally to others. We all have a part to play in standing up to sexism, racism, or any other form of injustice regardless of whether we feel directly affected.
7. Men are allowed to be vulnerable and express emotions. A major theme of the film is depicting a more multi-dimensional representation of masculinity. One character suffers from PTSD of which the rest of his team is very supportive and understanding. Rather than receive a dose of tough love and encouraged to toughen up and keep fighting he is reassured that he still has a vital role in their mission. Men are allowed to experience fear. Even the German soldiers who ordinarily would be automatically vilified and picked off un-sentimentally are shown to be the scared young boys they are. The male characters aren’t expected to be tough all of the time, in fact they respect Diana’s superior strength and look to her for leadership and guidance. And when it really matters, they support her and enable her to save the day.
8. The atrocities of war are not glossed over. This film is entirely about how awful war is and why it should be avoided. Diana’s childhood naivete and complete disgust in the barbarity of WW1 is a splash of cold water in the face for all of us who have become numbed to child casualties in conflict. When she is told “ we can’t save everyone” and is encouraged to walk past women and children suffering she ignores the others and takes action to protect them. The film carries an important message about peace throughout; reminding us that it is never a case of defeating the ultimate bad guy to restore harmony, but recognising that we are all capable of darkness so we need to love and support each other to overcome that.
I felt incredibly emotional throughout the film. Maybe it was from relief that I could finally enjoy a superhero movie guilt free. Maybe it was simply joy at seeing women depicted as THREE DIMENSIONAL HUMANS BEINGS WITH AGENCY. It is wonderful that a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster that will reach a huge audience (it’s already smashing box office records) contains such positive messages. As we walked out of the cinema my friend told me that this is the kind of film she wishes she could have seen as a child; but I am happy in the knowledge that lots of little girls will see this film and know that they can grow up to be Wonder Women.
by Megan Low, 14
Imagine this: A young woman is walking to her office for a large organisation, on her way there she is cat-called by some laddish men, comments about her short skirt are made, they ask her if she’s free tonight, she feels intimated, but walks past.
It gets worse, she drops her purse and when she bends down to pick it up one of the men jokes that she’s getting ready for him. She quickly stands up and dashes off to her desk feeling upset and humiliated.
At lunch she’s standing in the cafeteria talking to her friend when suddenly she feels someone grope her, she turns round but all she sees in a group of men laughing and walking off. She tells her friend who laughs it off and says “well someone obviously liked you; lucky you!” but she doesn’t feel lucky.
When she’s back at her desk she overhears two male co-workers talking about one of the girls in the office and describing her as a slut who would probably be good in bed. When she walks past them later in the day another guy has joined them and they are all looking and laughing at a phone, and as she gets closer she can clearly hear pornographic sounds. She is unsure about walking past them and wants to confront them but feels anxious about drawing attention to herself as she’s sure they will make suggestive comments and she feels intimidated as there are 3 of them. She walks past quickly and doesn’t say anything and they don’t even appear to notice her, engrossed as they are.
Then as she’s leaving work she sees a woman getting slapped on the ass by a guy and then he walks away with his friends talking about how fit the woman is, she catches up to the woman and asks her if she’s ok, the woman looks at her puzzled “why wouldn’t I be?” she explains what she saw and the woman laughs and replies “Aw that’s just Ed! It’s just a bit of banter, isn’t it” and walks away with her friends. The woman is left behind wondering if her statement was a genuine question or rhetorical, she’s not sure if the other woman herself knew.
Finally, walking behind people as she walks home, she overhears plenty of conversations where women are being called bitches or sluts and guys are joking calling each other faggots.
Does this sound slightly familiar? Would you be comfortable working in an office environment like that? Hopefully not… Ask yourself would you be comfortable with teenagers & older children 12+ being in this kind of setting?
Well they are: from Monday to Friday, morning to afternoon. Change one word in the above scenario; office to school. This happens in almost every school and can be harmful to both girls and boys. It happens in my school and I myself have been a victim of it and I know I’m not alone; when I asked several of my friends if they thought sexual harassment happened in schools they replied no, but when I asked them if they had been groped or cat-called most said yes and added further stories of being called crude things and even rumours being spread about them committing sexual acts.
This is harassment and girls don’t even know it’s happening to them as it’s so common place. Now I’m not saying that schools are horrible places and this happens to every girl, but I want to bring this to people’s attention so that it can be stopped. It needs to be stopped because it’s harmful and can really affect a person’s self-confidence. I don’t want my little sister or any little girl going into this sort of environment.
So Stand Up against sexual harassment in schools, ask what schools policies are, don’t be afraid to call it out and guys don’t do it and don’t be a bystander to someone doing it.
Written by Chloe Munro, 17
On Saturday the 21st of January, the Youth Highland AGM was held. This is an event that brings youth voluntary groups together from the Highlands. Some of the RASASH Young Ambassadors attended the event that allowed us to show other voluntary groups the work that we have been doing.
We set up our stand, as shown above. Megan Lowson and Megan Low created a seven question quiz which regarded sexual violence statistics in Scotland. The quiz informed people about the truths surrounding sexual violence. The stall also showed people what RASASH and the Young Ambassadors have been up to, for example the newspaper article talking about the Reclaim the Night event. We also had a variation of posters from different campaigns, including some from "www.thisisnotaninvitationtorapeme.co.uk" that are seen on the edge of the table. Overall, our stand was thought-provoking as it showed people realities surrounding sexual violence in Scotland.
At the AGM we had the consent zone. The consent zone introduced different situations regarding if a situation was consensual, and learning what the law says on consent. It created good conversations and the people that came to the consent zone left knowing more about the law and what makes a situation consensual.
We then listened to the AGM meeting which was very interesting as it discussed how voluntary youth work impacts teenagers, specifically in the Highlands. We watched several presentations, and then RASASH Stand Up Ambassador Becky Tyson did her presentation showing other youth groups what RASASH and Stand Up! do, speaking passionately about her experience of being an Ambassador. You can view the end of her presentation here:
Below are some photos taken at the event. Overall, the event was interesting for us to see how voluntary groups like us affect teenagers in Highland, along with how we can improve and support other voluntary youth groups. It was also fantastic to spread the word about RASASH and the issue of sexual violence, through Becky's presentation and information provided at our stand.
by Megan Lowson, 14
The world is good in the way that many of us appreciate and accept except each other for what and who we are, but cruel in the way that it makes us think that to be a certain way is unacceptable. Or to look and be different makes someone unfit for specific career paths, or particular problems don't exist and never happen or even just simply shaming because someone does not meet society's standards.
As someone who is a young person in society and has always considered and deemed things like rape, sexual abuse and inequality things that should never happen, when I heard about RASASH and how I would be able to become a volunteer Ambassador I immediately made the decision that I would do it. People avoid the subject of the likes of rape and sexual abuse as it's seen as a "touchy subject" to the majority (to an extent, to those who have experienced it, it is) but not in the way many make it out to be.
I came to be an ambassador, not only for the experience it will give to me but for the fact I am one of many who want to spread the word about how nobody should turn the other way or avoid this subject or any other type of problem, because people are led to believe things like this don't happen in small cities and towns, when it has more than likely happened plenty more times than once in the very city you live in. I want people to know that no one was "asking for it" when they wore short shorts or any other item of ‘exposing’ clothing. No one was "asking for it" when they got too drunk and nobody was saying "persuade me" when they said no.
I have also always wanted to spread another word, which is that nobody was born to live up to society’s standards, you weren't born to be judged by someone else, you were born to be an individual. You don't have to be what the media and places like Hollywood define as "perfect" to be described as it.
Some said I was "too young" to understand and to be speaking about such subjects, but I will always stand up for what I believe and lend a hand in any way possible to show what I believe should and shouldn't happen.
I joined to spread the word of why rape, sexual abuse and inequality shouldn't be happening.
If you would like to become a 'Stand Up!' Ambassador you can find all the information you need, along with an application form on the RASASH website.
by Mary Ellen McIntyre, 17
Beautiful. Skinny. Sexy. Voluptuous. Perfect. Even at 16, I recognise that these are the qualities which you must possess to be a “proper” woman. But before I started working as a Stand Up! Ambassador, I didn’t recognise that sexual violence, and the inequalities and misogynism that go hand in hand with it, are round every corner.
The definition of rape is not something that happens down a dark alley between a drunken woman and a stranger. And the definition of sexual abuse is flexible too – in fact, it’s something that happens way more often that society would care to acknowledge.
For example – a young woman, still in her teens, walking down a street in the middle of the day. When she gets suggestive comments called out to her - that’s sexual abuse. It may be brushed off as flattery, or as a compliment. Call it what you like, street harassment is sexual violence. Why, in 2015, do people still fail to realise that?
People of all genders are stereotyped the moment they’re born, whether they’re wrapped in pink or blue. Men are expected to be powerful, strong and always in control, whilst women are supposed to be good-looking sex objects who obediently obey their partners. And those who don’t identify with either gender don’t matter at all.
Just look at adverts we see on TV, music we listen to and magazines we read. What kind of images are they portraying to the next generation – MY generation? And how can we stop our minds being poisoned in this way?
With Stand Up!, our message is clear. It’s time to speak out and speak loud – to stand up against sexual violence in all forms. Only once we start sending out a different message, once we start realising it’s OK for men to cry and women to be more than pretty, then will we be better equipped to fight against abuse. And it’s a fight we all need to start today – so that the next generation of youngsters will be able to grow up in a world where they feel free to be who they want – strong, capable, confident, and free.
Welcome to the Stand Up! platform for young people's voices from across the Scottish Highlands. This site showcases quality pieces of writing on topics relating to gender-based violence from passionate young writers who want to get their voices heard.