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Last month, inspired by the #MeToo stories being shared on social media across the country, Rhea, a young Shetlander, decided she wanted to show that sexual harassment is as much of a problem in Shetland as it is anywhere else.
Just because we live in a peerie rural community does not mean that we are safe from these kinds of behaviour.
As a volunteer with BEE (Bold, Equal & Empowered), Shetland Rape Crisis’ young activists group, she knows that breaking the silence around sexual violence is an important part of preventing it and also helping victim-survivors to know they are not alone and that they can heal from it.
Asking The Question
Rhea used an anonymous social media app to ask the question: have you been affected by sexual harassment in Shetland? She made it clear that responses would be anonymous and used for a thread on her social media to show how much of a problem this is.
She expected a lot of responses, but was shocked by the sheer amount that came in and the seriousness of the incidents described.
As well as stories of sexual harassment, she received stories of sexual coercion, assault, abuse and rape - a lot of which had occurred against children and young people.
She decided to share everything that was sent to her out of respect for the survivor’s stories and recognition that sexual harassment is just one part of a wider set of cultural values that enable behaviours like assault, abuse and rape. Shetland Rape Crisis helped Rhea to further anonymise these stories before sharing.
What Is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence/violation is any form of sexual contact that you don't freely agree to.
Contact includes more than just physical touch, it also includes any sexualised interaction you don't want such as harassment, unwanted messages, stalking, inappropriate comments, sharing intimate images, and more.
It also includes physical contact such as groping, taking advantage of someone on alcohol or drugs, coercing or pressuring someone into sexual acts, removing condoms without agreement, sexual assault, and rape.
Sexual violence is common. Anyone can experience it, at any age. Many survivors never tell anyone and it is rarely reported to the police.
The victim is not to blame. Sexual violence doesn’t ‘just happen’. A person commits sexual violence because, at some level, they decide to do so.
A Personal Note From Rhea
I would like to thank everyone who shared their story with me. I am grateful for your bravery and your trust. I have done my best to make sure your words are reflected here, while keeping your identity as safe as possible.
Receiving these stories has been a very powerful but also very overwhelming experience for me. Although I am always happy to support friends and I feel passionate about creating an equal world free from sexual violence, I am still a young person myself and not a trained counsellor.
For this reason, I am asking that if you read this and want to share your story, instead of sending it to me please contact Shetland Rape Crisis or another appropriate organisation or person and they will help you with it.
The following document includes descriptions of sexual violence (including harassment, assault, abuse and rape) which have occurred in Shetland or happened to Shetlanders.
If you have been affected by this and need help, please contact:
Shetland Rape Crisis, Mon-Thurs 9am-1.30pm
01595 747 174 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline, 6pm-Midnight
0800 01 02 03 / email@example.com / txt 07537 410 027
Read the full #WisToo Towards a Safer Shetland document online below.