Rape Crisis’ National Sexual Violence Prevention Programme was set up in 2013 in response to the demand from schools and youth groups for young people to be educated on issues to do with sexual violence, such as consent, sexualisation and pornography, and image-sharing through social media and online. Rape Crisis centres around Scotland have long supported adult and young survivors and we firmly believe that sexual violence is preventable. Young people should have access to evidence-based primary prevention programmes to promote their right to healthy and equal sexual relationships, and to enable them to be part of a positive change.
We aim for young people to have increased knowledge and more positive attitudes towards sexual relationships, to support them in forming healthy, safe, consensual and respectful sexual behaviour and relationships when they’re ready. This involves tackling some of the problematic representations of masculinity in popular culture, pornography and wider society, and supporting young men and women to challenge these and build a healthy and equal basis for relationships.
The programme also offers a safe space for young people to recognise and validate experiences they might have felt uncomfortable about, and provides access to support. We want young people to have more of a voice when challenging violence. Supporting them in sharing their perspectives and creativity helps their voice to have more impact and influence.
Partnership and strategic work are also a key part of the programme, as strong relationships with local partners can really enhance our work, lead to shared approaches and increase consistency in how agencies engage with young people around sexual violence, including related areas of work such as internet safety, sexual health and child protection. The programme also benefits from shared learning and consistency across the network. The reciprocal relationship between local delivery and national coordination allows policy and strategy (including education, child protection and sexual health) to be informed by work on the ground across Scotland.
Our external evaluation was conducted in 2015 and findings indicated the programme is highly effective in improving young people’s knowledge and attitudes in relation to healthy sexual relationships.
We are funded through a grant from the Scottish Government Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund until March 2020 which funds a part-time post at 15 local Rape Crisis centres. More recently, through the Violence Against Women and Girls Fund, we have expanded access to the programme to all local authority areas, again until 2020. We anticipate that by next year the programme will reach just under half of all local authority secondary schools, and ultimately we aim for all young people in Scotland to have access to the programme.
We have also partnered with Zero Tolerance to develop and pilot a whole school approach to promoting gender equality and preventing gender-based violence. The pilot is funded by the Violence Against Women and Girls Fund and we are working with stakeholders to consider how the model could have an even wider impact. We are also working with the University of Glasgow to develop programmes to support colleges and universities in tackling gender based violence.
Rape Crisis centres have seen a significant increase in the number of young people seeking support since the prevention programme started, and support services are often stretched. The support of local communities through donations and fundraising is hugely appreciated. If you would like to find out how to support your local centre, you can find their details at https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/help-local-rape-crisis-centres/
You can also join us on social media and add your voice to the discussion.