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Local group helps highlight 'taboo' topic of gender-based violence

By Jean Gunn

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A local women's aid group is among those taking part in a campaign to raise awareness of gender-based violence and how it affects those living in local communities.

Caithness and Sutherland Women's Aid (CASWA) is one of around 13 organisations across the Highlands and Islands taking part in the joint initiative. Partners include rape crisis centres, the police and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The #ChangeHerStory campaign is part of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence taking place from November 25 to December 10.

CASWA, celebrating 15 years' of service in Caithness and Sutherland, supports women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse.

Laura Doull, a domestic abuse specialist with the local group, said: "Working with other agencies to develop this campaign has been a joy. Seeing other agencies coming together to promote and advocate for the same cause has been fantastic.

"Gender-based violence in all its forms remains a significant issue across Scotland and unfortunately in our rural Highland areas it still remains a rather taboo topic.”

The CASWA logo.
The CASWA logo.

Laura added: “It is vital that women, children and young people who have experienced gender-based violence know that there is support available locally and we hope this campaign will achieve this.”

CASWA team leader Emma Fraser said: “We are delighted to be part of the Highland-wide #ChangeHerStory campaign. Shining a spotlight on gender-based violence through campaigns such as this is incredibly important as an awareness-raising tool.

"We’d love to see the community join in and share what they would like to change for women and girls. Sadly, gender-based violence is an issue that exists everywhere and Caithness and Sutherland is no exception.”

Mackays Hotel in Wick will be showing support for both the campaign and the local women's aid group by lighting the hotel in purple, CASWA's branding colour, for the duration of the initiative.

“Celebrating 15 years is a great achievement for CASWA and being able to link into the #ChangeHerStory campaign is fitting," said Ellie Lamont of Mackays Hotel. "We want to support CASWA by joining in their campaign as their work is vital for our area."

Gwen Harrison, manager at the Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland (RASASH), another partner to the campaign, said: “The outbreak 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.”

The #ChangeHerStory logo.
The #ChangeHerStory logo.

The campaign is also calling on the public to show solidarity towards survivors. People are encouraged to post on their social media using the #ChangeHerStory or anonymously via the website with a message of what they would like to see change for women and girls.

These contributions will be shared during the final day of the campaign as part of a short film. This video will be a virtual march in place of the annual Reclaim the Night event, which cannot take place due to current restrictions.

For more information about the campaign or to get involved, visit www.changeherstory.co.uk or search for the #ChangeHerStory. Details of all organisations involved can be found on the contact us page of the website.

Wednesday's start date coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, while December 10, is Human's Rights Day. For each of the 16 days, partners will be sharing resources and stories online, including those written by survivors.

Gender-based violence is a serious problem, yet remains a taboo topic that is rarely spoken about or recognised, especially in rural communities. Sexual offences have continued to increase each year in Scotland, even as other crime rates have gone down. It is estimated one in 10 women in Scotland has experienced rape, while one in four women experience domestic abuse.

For more information about CASWA, visit www.caswa.org.uk

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