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Source: Scotland – Highland Council

Members of the Highland Violence Against Women (HVAWP) partnership today joined forces at a Scottish Women’s Aid event to officially marked the end of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.

Women’s Aid workers, members of the HVAWP, staff from Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland and workers from a variety of frontline services came together at the collaborative event at Dingwall City Chambers.

The event looked at how to empower survivors of gender-based violence to take part in action to end violence against women and girls. It highlights recently published research by Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland about the difficulties of tackling violence against women in rural areas.

The report – Participating in Equally Safe, in the Highlands and Islands – outlines the concerns and recommendations of 188 survivors of violence against women. They say isolation, lack of access to services and the difficulties of negative local attitudes are the main issues.

The report makes 13 recommendations to the Scottish Government and Equally Safe partners about how to improve women’s access to participating work to end gender-based violence. All recommendations were supported by those attending the event.

Executive Chief Officer for Health and Social Care and Highland Council lead on the Highland Violence Against Women partnership, Lesley Weber, said: “Domestic abuse and all other forms of gender-based violence, is a local, national and global concern.  Gender based violence has severe, long-lasting and wide-ranging social, health and economic impacts. The costs are high to individuals, families, to our communities and to our services.

“Gender based violence is deemed as a key public health issue, with the World Health Organisation recognising it as a major public health problem and violation of women’s human rights. It is estimated to cost the Scottish public purse £4 billion, however, gender-based violence is often hidden and undisclosed, therefore this figure is likely a significant underestimation.”

Gender-based violence has a range of consequences including homelessness, mental health difficulties, substance and alcohol misuse, child safeguarding issues, adult safeguarding issues, offending behaviour, physical injury and death.

In 2017-18 there were 59,541 domestic abuse incidents recorded by Police Scotland, in 81% of all cases a woman was abused by a man. Women are also more likely to be victims of stalking, are more likely to end up seriously injured or killed and tend to experience severe and lasting effects.

It was reported in early December that nine women in Scotland lost their lives to partners or ex-partners in the last 12 months.  In England and Wales, on average two women a week die as a result of domestic abuse. 

Reviews of domestic homicides in England show that for many of those who are killed, there is a backdrop of insidious coercive control – coercive control, something that is not so tangible therefor not so easy to identify.  Many of those who have been killed are not picked up by services because they often don’t know they are victims of domestic abuse. Coercive control is not widely understood nor spoken about. 

Children living in homes where there is violence and abuse, are exposed to ongoing trauma which can impact their emotional wellbeing, development and life chances. They are at much greater risk of developing mental health difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, and are at a higher risk of offending behaviour. 

Lesley added: “Responding to all forms of gender-based violence, needs to be person-centred and co-ordinated, based on a strong partnership approach.  The best response is to support those who are victims and survivors to be safe and well, but also to hold perpetrators to account with opportunities to change their behaviour, and importantly, we also need to look at and address the root causes.

“The aim when it comes to tackling gender-based violence, is to reduce harm and preserve life. The most effective way is primary prevention and early intervention.  We want all victims and survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence, to know that Highland is a place where they can have the confidence to come forward and access the support they need.”

MIL OSI United Kingdom