Each year, in the days between 25 November and 10 December, organisations around the world organise events, demonstrations, workshops, online campaigns and other activities to mark the UN’s global campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Scotland is no stranger to this campaign, and in 2022 the CSE Aware team had the opportunity to attend some of the event organised by local and national organisations. In this blog, we review some of them:
Laura – Intimate image abuse
One of the events I most this year was a session delivered by the Revenge Porn Helpline and organised by the West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership. The Revenge Porn Helpline was established in 2015 following the legislation which made it an offence to share intimate images without consent.
Intimate image abuse entails a wide range of forms and perpetrators. In addition to taking, sharing or threating to take or share nude or sexual images or videos without consent, it can include voyeurism, upskirting, sextortion, collector culture, doxxing and deepfakes. Perpetrators are not limited to partners – it can be anyone. It is, however, a gendered phenomenon: the Helpline statistics revealed that 12.5 images were reported for females, with 0.2 for males.
The session made me reflect on the links between covered forms of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. As we have highlighted in the Safety bulletin, doxxing is a threat that women who sell or exchange sex face. The research conducted by the Avery Centre evidenced non-consensual uploading of content on PornHub. Social media platforms – including OnlyFans – are mediums through which sex trafficking can be facilitated.
Intimate image abuse is a reminder that gender-based violence is about power, coercion and control. Its impact on victims cannot be underestimated: it can lead to pervasive fear, shame and isolation. Yet, the recognition of its manifestations and justice responses is lagging.
Natalia – Forced migration and sexual violence
During 16 days I was lucky to attend a range of the events highlighting progress and challenges in tackling GBV in local areas and spotlighting specific forms of abuse. One event that left an impression was the presentation of the SEREDA project’s findings. This project has been researching sexual and gender-based violence against forced migrants in Europe.
Forced migration – whether it is due to wars and climate change or to poverty, gender discrimination and state violence – continues to be a crisis for many. Despite that, I’ve always felt that there is a knowledge gap in terms of how forced migrants can and o experience sexualised violence. It is something so pertinent and vital for organisations and services to know, because only then can we fully understand the complex layers of trauma that refugees and asylum seekers carry.
I was glad to hear of this research project and to learn that it has done research specifically with survivors in Scotland. So on an early morning in December, I travelled to Edinburgh to hear from principal researcher Professor Jenny Phillimore. The SEREDA team interviewed eight survivors in Scotland, and looked at Scottish service provision and the Scottish Policy context. Unsurprisingly, we found out that the majority of forced migrant affected by sexual and gender-based violence are women and children.
Among my key takeaways was learning that survivors experience abuse at multiple points in their journey: it can happen before leaving their country, while in transit and once they arrive in Scotland. The likelihood of repeated incidents throughout their displacement means that women’s trauma is compounded, and it can worsen if women cannot access support due to lacking information, language barriers, distrust of interpreters, stigma and shame, and not recognising what happened as violence.
It was interesting to find out that the abuse women experienced often featured sexual exploitation and forced prostitution. It made me consider how, for women, the journey to find refuge is paved with vulnerability to sexualised violence, and the vital importance of services working with migrant women to be aware of and proactive about women’s experiences of abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation.
You can read a very handy briefing of the SEREDA findings here.