The Right to Recover [re-blog]

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This blog post was originally published on Rape Crisis Scotland blog here on 17 November 2017. It is being reproduced here with permission from Rape Crisis Scotland as part of our series for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Today in the Scottish Parliament a special event is being held to highlight the publication of a new NSPCC report which reveals a dearth of specialist services across the country for children who have experienced sexual violence.

The new report: ‘The Right to Recover’ covers the West of Scotland from the Western Isles down to Dumfries & Galloway, and the NSPPC has found that more than half of the 17 councils it looked at in West and Central Scotland have no specialist service for children of primary school age who need help, while 15 of the 17 have no service for children aged under five years.

Figures released by the Scottish Government in September showed very clearly that an increasing number of reported sexual crime in Scotland relates to children & young people, and highlighted in particular the high prevalence of sexual crime being experienced by young women under the age of 16. And where there is sexual crime, there are survivors in need of support, advocacy and information – what is equally clear is that all children & young people have a right to and an increasing number badly need access to specialist services following sexual violence.

Rape Crisis centres are seeing an increasing number of young people coming to them and looking for support and information around sexual violence, and more centres have set up specialist services to meet this need – Dundee and Angus Young Survivors (DAYS) for young people aged 11-18, which was recently established by the Women’s Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre in Dundee is the most recent to have done so, after consultation with young people.

Peer and other support available to young survivors from services like DAYS, and the ROSEY Project in Glasgow, offer an invaluable lifeline, and the friendships that develop in these contexts a vital part of this process. Here are some of the comments made by young service users:

“I met wonderfully ordinary people who were connected by similarly awful experiences and I owe where I am to all those involved”

“Support from the centre has shown me that what I feel and how I feel it is both normal and justified, without the support I would still be lost”

“Support has helped me get rid of some of the shame I carry with me”

“I felt totally helpless and didn’t know what to do for my daughter. Knowing she was attending the centre and seeing how much it helped her has been so valuable”

“The support I received following childhood sexual abuse has changed my life, I’m happier then I ever thought I could be”

Rape Crisis Scotland’s Sexual Violence Prevention Project works with young people on issues of consent and healthy sexual relationships, and currently reaches 13,000 young people across Scotland. One of the knock-on effects of this is that increasing numbers of young people are coming forward for support – and ethically, this is something to which they are absolutely entitled: children & young people must have access to specialist, locally based support around sexual violence.

In addition to these are the many adult survivors seeking support from Rape Crisis Centres who were abused as children. Child sexual abuse accounted for almost a quarter of the experiences for which people attended rape crisis centres in Scotland during the past year.

The current work around forensic provision in Scotland includes looking at the learning from the Barnahus model in Iceland; at what child-centred care post sexual assault can and should look like. It is vital that support looks not only at the acute aftermath of assault but the longer term support and advocacy for young people, and their parents/carers.

It is clear from all of this that a solution must be found. Rape Crisis Scotland is keen to be part of that solution, whether this means working in partnership with other agencies towards the development of new and distinct services for children and young people, expansion of existing rape crisis services (with appropriate resourcing) to meet this need, or some other model of provision.

Whatever the answer is, what does remain clear is that the need for children and young people to receive specialist support around sexual violence is pressing, and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.