Islanders are being urged to help prevent gender-based violence in Shetland after a series of incidents were highlighted online.
Shetland Rape Crisis’ Facebook page recently featured a post from a teenager, Rhea, who asked young women to share stories of sexual harassment on an anonymous app.
She was shocked to receive 66 accounts in 24 hours from people of all genders in the islands, but the majority detailed incidents against young women and girls.
A campaign involving Shetland Rape Crisis, Shetland Women’s Aid and Police Scotland is now asking people to be vigilant, and to report offenders.
Lisa Ward, service manager at Shetland Rape Crisis, said: “It’s extraordinary work Rhea has done and it’s had a big impact locally and nationally.
“The conversations that followed on what sexual violence looks like, what are the patterns and the fact that it happens in all communities, including rural ones, have been really productive.”
She added: “Sexual violence is any form of sexual contact that you don’t freely agree to. If you have been affected by sexual violence, it was not your fault and help is available.”
Support from Shetland Rape Crisis includes help to make a formal report and access to emotional support or trauma therapy.
Inspector Martyn Brill from Police Scotland said: “Reading those accounts was shocking in terms of the extent of sexual offending against women and other young, vulnerable people of other genders in our community and the seriousness of this unreported criminality happening across Shetland.
“However, what disturbs me most, is that there are individuals in our community who think it is ok to behave in this way.
“My message to them is: this is not ok, it is unacceptable.”
He said there are many forms of gender-based violence, including sexual violence and domestic abuse, and offenders use many excuses to shift the blame.
“There are no excuses and the blame for any form of gender-based abuse, most of which is perpetrated by men against women but can be committed by anyone against anyone, lies with the perpetrator.
“It is up to all of us to recognise gender-based violence, challenge it and support those who have experienced it.
“Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or violence, or knows someone who has been a victim, can talk to us. We can help. We will listen and we will investigate.”
Laura Stronach, Shetland Women’s Aid, added: “We need to call out the normalisation of sexual assault, coercion and rape within relationships and marriage, these are not things women and children should ever have to live with.
“It is never too late to talk to someone about what has happened to you, these experiences can affect how you live day-to-day for the rest of your life, but there is help available, and we can provide trauma recovery.
“The kind of behaviours exposed here are absolutely unacceptable and no one should have to go through any of these experiences.”