A series of events across the north and north-east will raise awareness of gender-based violence during an international campaign.
Virtual events and workshops will be held over the span of two weeks amid 16 days of global activism calling for the elimination of violence against women and children.
The annual 16 Days of Action campaign runs from today, which is International Day for the elimination of Violence against Women, through to December 10 – which is International Human Rights Day.
It aims to highlight the connection between human rights and domestic violence.
More than a dozen Highland and Aberdeenshire organisations are working jointly on the campaign, and for each of the 16 days, they will be sharing resources and stories online, including those written by survivors.
Highland women are invited to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault and are encouraged to post a message of what they would like to see change for women and girls on their social media using the hashtag #ChangeHerstory or anonymously via the Change Her Story website.
Following the national trend, Highland has experienced a spike in domestic abuse cases since lockdown.
Gwen Harrison, manager of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland (Rasash) said: “The pandemic doesn’t stop us from doing something about prevention.
“This joint campaign provides us with an opportunity to generate greater public awareness and understanding of gender-based violence in the Highlands and Islands.
“By speaking out, we can show the impact sexual harassment has on our communities, that it’s a real problem here too, and that everyone has a role to play to stop it.”
The public’s contributions will be shared during the final day of the campaign as part of a short video.
The women’s aid service covering Caithness and Sutherland (Caswa) is also involved in the #ChangeHerStory campaign.
A spokeswoman for Caswa said: “Shining a spotlight on gender-based violence through campaigns such as this is incredibly important as an awareness raising tool.
“Sadly gender-based violence is an issue that exists everywhere and the Highlands is no exception.”
To highlight the start of the 16 Days of Action campaign, the front of Marischal College in Aberdeen will be lit orange tonight to spread the word about gender violence.
The campaign is supported by Aberdeen’s Violence Against Women Partnership, which aims to increase women’s safety, show solidarity among women around the world and strengthen local work to tackle violence against women.
Grampian Women’s Aid will be posting messages every day through social media platforms, along with a number of virtual events, including a special interview with an aunt who speaks about the devastating effect of her niece’s murder by her ex-partner and whose father campaigned tirelessly to bring about the Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law).
Aileen Forbes, Manager for Grampian Women’s Aid, said: “As we retreat into our homes during restrictions, women, children and young people still living with their abuser means spending extended periods of time confined at home with their abuser – with little opportunity to call supportive family or friends and support service providers like ours.”
Fundraising and development lead at the charity, Alison Hay, added that Grampian Women’s Aid have had to rapidly adapt and radically redesign, but they are still providing all support services during these uncertain times.
She said: “The coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected all aspects of life and, for survivors of domestic abuse – a pattern of persistent and controlling behaviour by a partner or ex-partner – it has resulted in increased risks of harm, and made seeking help more difficult.”