Equally Safe, Scotland's Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, was published in 2014 and updated in 2016. It sets out a vision of a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and protected, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse - and the attitudes that help perpetuate them. The definition of violence against women and girls we have adopted explicitly includes children of all genders as subject to harm through violence. This plan aims to improve the lives and experiences of all children affected by violence and the ways of thinking that maintain it.
The aim of the strategy is to foster collaborative working between key partners in the public, private and third sectors to achieve this vision. Our strategic approach is drawn from the UN definition of gender based violence, which recognises that it is a function of gender inequality, that it is an abuse of male power and privilege, and that women and girls experience violence and abuse because they are women and girls and because they continue to occupy a subordinate position within society in relation to men. Within that wider societal context, there are particular risk factors that increase vulnerability, and the full continuum of violence against women and girls (domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, commercial sexual exploitation including victims of human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and so called 'honour based' violence) continues to be prevalent across society. That is why Equally Safe places increased priority upon primary prevention - stopping the violence from happening in the first place. Taking this approach demands that Scottish society embrace equality and mutual respect, that we together reject all forms of violence against women and girls, and that women and girls thrive as equal citizens - socially, culturally, economically and politically. This is a long term ambition, and we also have to ensure that interventions in the short and medium term are early and effective, helping to prevent violence from reoccurring and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people. We need to ensure that men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls, and that perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response.
We have a range of evidence sources to inform our interventions and understanding of the current position and progress towards our goals  :
- In 2014/2015 there were 59,882 recorded incidents of domestic abuse. This decreased by 3% to 58,104 recorded incidents in 2015/2016. The disproportionate impact on women has remained consistent, with 79% of incidents involving a female victim and male perpetrator.
- In 2014/2015 there were 1797 recorded incidents of rape and 104 recorded incidents of attempted rape. In 2015/2016 there were 1692 recorded incidents of rape and 117 incidents of attempted rape. There were 3727 recorded incidents of sexual assault in 2014/2015 compared with 3963 incidents in 2015/2016. In 2014/2015 there were 3555 recorded incidents of other sexual crimes compared with 4254 recorded incidents in 2015/2016.
- 646 non-harassment orders (civil and criminal) were granted in 2014/2015 compared to 941 in 2015/2016.
- In 2015 the UK National Referral Mechanism received 145 referrals of potential victims of human trafficking in Scotland, an increase of 30.6% on 2014. 42 of these potential victims were minors. Victims trafficked for sexual exploitation included 40 adults and 8 minors, both predominantly female.
- The 2014 social attitudes survey on public attitudes towards violence against women findings tell us that people are less likely to recognise verbal abuse and controlling behaviour (as opposed to physical abuse) as being wrong and harmful, and there are circumstances under which people view abusive behaviours as less serious ( e.g. an extramarital affair has occurred). People tend to think that sex without consent is less seriously wrong or harmful if perpetrated by the victim's spouse than by someone she has just met. More than a third of people believe common myths about rape, and people are much less likely to be negative about commercial sexual exploitation than about the other forms of violence against women. Stereotypical views on gender roles persist, and those who held stereotypical views on gender roles are consistently less likely to view a wide range of abusive behaviours as wrong or harmful.
- Attitudes of young people showed they were less likely than adults to think the various kinds of violence against women that they were asked about were very seriously wrong, or to think that they would cause a great deal of harm. In some cases, the extent to which young people appear to hold more permissive views than adults about violence against women is striking. Stereotypical gender views played a role in this.
In the context of the Strategy, there has been a range of activity to support delivery:
- In March 2015, the First Minister announced that an additional £20m from Justice budgets would be allocated towards tackling violence against women. This money has already made a significant difference with direct support and assistance going to victims, as well as improvements being made to the system to prioritise court cases which involve domestic abuse so victims are not waiting for long periods for their trials to call.
- Over 2015/16, 4 workstreams themed around Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity, Justice and Accountability were established and have contributed to proposals contained within this draft Delivery Plan.
- A Violence against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board, chaired at Ministerial and senior councillor level was established comprising senior leads from public and third sectors - this met for the first time in late 2015.
- In October 2015, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 was passed, introducing a single offence for all kinds of trafficking for the first time, consolidating and strengthening existing law. The new offences of human trafficking and of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour now have the maximum penalty of life imprisonment attached to them for anyone who is convicted of these new offences.
- In December 2015 a sub-group of the Justice Expert Group was convened to look at Forensic Examinations across Scotland and recommend a way forward. As a result of this action, a post specific role was created, funded by Scottish Government, in 2016 to sit within the National Services Directorate of the NHS and support a project scoping the service provision across the country.
- In February 2016, Scotland's first National Action Plan to tackle female genital mutilation was published.
- In March 2016, the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act was passed, which criminalises so called 'revenge porn', provides for jury direction on consideration of evidence in cases of sexual assault and creates a specific aggravation of domestic abuse in law.
- Over 2016, consultation took place on a specific criminal offence of domestic abuse.
- In March 2016, an updated version of Equally Safe was published with the support of children and young people's organisations, who helped to strengthen our approach to these issues within these. This helped to establish stronger links across a range of government policy areas, and more widely, renewed collaborative working between different third sector organisations.
- To further strengthen this dimension, a Children and Young People stakeholder reference group was established later in 2016, to input to this draft Delivery Plan and inform our approach to implementation.
- In July 2016, the Scottish Government awarded a contract to Blake Stevenson and Lily Greenan, the former Chief Executive of Scottish Women's Aid, to scope the advocacy services across the Country and provide a report on the provision of service, the use of safety assessment tools and gaps that existing in the advocacy landscape.
- In September 2016, the Programme for Government announced that we would introduce legislation in the Parliamentary year to create a specific offence of domestic abuse that will cover not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that cannot easily be prosecuted using the existing criminal law.
- In June 2016, a further £11.8m was announced by the Equalities Secretary to support efforts to tackle violence against women and provide support for victims, bringing the total investment from the Equality Budget over 2015-17 to just over 24m.
- Over this period, funding has supported additional capacity building of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences ( MARACs) through the development of a suite of resources and the commissioning of a baseline assessment of the effectiveness of MARACs in Scotland.
- With the support and input of the Improvement Service and CoSLA, guidance for violence against women multi-agency partnerships was published in August 2016.
- Evaluation of the Caledonian System Men's Programme was published in November 2016, and preceded an announcement of development funding for the Programme from the Justice budget.
- The commission of Healthcare Improvement Scotland National Standards for the NHS to ensure consistency of practice across the country for examinations of victims of rape and sexual assault was announced in February 2017 and in March 2017 a survey by NHS Education Scotland concluded which asked 819 doctors their views on taking up work in this important area.
- Research into Forced Marriage in Scotland was published in February 2017.
- In February 2017, we announced 3 year rolling funding for equality and violence against women organisations.
- On 17 March 2017 the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament.
Equally Safe states that the Scottish Government will develop an implementation plan for Equally Safe. The purpose of this is to ensure that the ambitions of the Strategy are rooted in practical delivery at all levels of society that makes a tangible difference to the lives of women, girls, children and young people. This draft Delivery Plan contains a number of actions, designed to give effect to the priorities and objectives of Equally Safe. The plan contributes to a range of other Government initiatives, including the Action Plan for a Fairer Scotland, the Justice Strategy and the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy due to be published in spring 2017 and sits alongside our work to tackle discrimination, promote equality, give children and young people the best start in life and build a fairer Scotland.
We are clear that it is for everyone in society to play their part in preventing and ending violence against women and girls. The Delivery Plan has been developed in partnership with a range of organisations, and will be delivered in a collaborative way that recognises the different roles and expertise of organisations from the public, private and third sectors. Key partners include:
|Police Scotland||Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service||Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service|
|Scottish Women's Aid||Rape Crisis Scotland||Engender|
|Zero Tolerance||Scottish Prison Service||Children and Young Person's Commissioner for Scotland|
|Barnardos||Social Work Scotland||Education Scotland|
|ASSIST (Glasgow Community Safety Centre)||Violence against Women Partnership National Network||NHS Scotland|
|Children's Reporter ( SCRA)||Scottish Legal Aid Board||Community Justice Scotland|
Joint Strategic Board
The Violence against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board was established following the publication of the Strategy. It is jointly chaired by the Scottish Government and CoSLA, and aims to meet at least twice a year. The remit of the Board is to The remit of the group is as follows:
- oversee delivery of the strategy, monitor progress and identify and (where necessary) intervene in emerging issues;
- receive progress reports from each of the 4 workstreams and oversee the delivery of their objectives;
- As the workstreams progress, to identify current and emerging issues, and direct the workstreams to focus their attention on particular issues that arise;
- promote Equally Safe priorities and any associated outcomes relating to the strategy and the four workstreams within the organisation and/or sector they represent.
Equally Safe made a commitment to establish 3 thematic workstreams and a further workstream focused on accountability. The members of the different Workstream groups are drawn from a wide range of partners with a wealth of experience and informed by the experience of women, girls, children and young people who have been subject to violence or abuse.
- The Primary prevention workstream has been led by Engender, the feminist organisation. It has explored the existing evidence on what works with regards to preventing violence against women and girls; sought to identify additional ways of addressing the systematic inequality, attitudes and assumptions that give rise to violence and abuse, and consider primary prevention in the widest context - society, community and the individual. To date, it has focused on developing thinking around how best to advance women's equality as a key component of primary prevention. Discussions have covered a range of subjects including political and professional leadership, gender stereotyping and norms, occupational segregation, the gender pay gap and disparities between paid and unpaid labour, and assessment of spending and economic decisions through a gendered lens.
- The Capability and Capacity workstream has been coordinated by CoSLA. It has focused on how to ensure that statutory services including health, education, social work and housing are increasingly competent in identifying and responding effectively to violence; and consider and work to improve the capacity and capability that exists across all services.
- The Justice workstream has been led by the Scottish Government Justice Directorate. It has focused on developing a victim-centered approach to the justice system through a coordinated approach within both the civil and criminal justice systems. The profile of the violence against women and children agenda within the justice system has never been more prominent and the Justice Expert Group established to take this forward have sought to harness this momentum and continue to work through the existing issues that remain within the justice system, despite significant progress in recent years. That includes consideration of the law relating to sexual offences and domestic abuse, looking at new models for taking evidence from vulnerable witnesses such as the Barnhaus model and taking forward learning from the Evidence and Procedure Review. The Group have explored the availability for support available for victims and their experiences when going through the system particularly in relation to civil law and contact cases; the availability of statistics to build evidence bases; training for professionals within the justice system; multi-agency working and opportunity for learning and spreading good practice; and the impact of justice interventions in changing both perpetrator behaviour and wider public attitudes. The Group have also established a short life working group on Forensic Examination services to consider action to raise the profile within the NHS of the inconsistency of practice and provision of forensic examination services for victims of rape and sexual assault, and endorsed a National Advocacy Scoping Exercise.
- The Accountability workstream has been led by Scottish Women's Aid in partnership with the Improvement Service. It has focused on developing a Performance Framework with appropriate outcomes and indicators to enable measurement of progress and improved strategic investment planning to ensure that women and girls throughout Scotland benefit from consistently high-quality services. The workstream has also considered how to embed participation in Equally Safe.
Through the outcomes framework and the associated evidence, evidence will be gathered of progress made. A progress report will be published at regular intervals updating on relevant activity and progress towards achieving these outcomes.
We will consult on this draft delivery plan over the spring. To ensure that we are meeting relevant duties and taking an intersectional approach, we will work with stakeholders to develop suitable equality impact and child rights and wellbeing impact assessments in parallel with the consultation process. We will consider the output of the consultation process over the summer, and publish a final version of the Delivery Plan later in 2017.
Email: Leonie Stone