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Publication - Publication

Equally Safe: national strategy

Published: 23 Mar 2016

Scotland's Strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls.

59 page PDF

1.1MB

59 page PDF

1.1MB

Contents
Equally Safe: national strategy
3. Where we want to be

59 page PDF

1.1MB

3. Where we want to be

'I believe changes can be made to end violence but it must go back to the roots of education and gender conditioning.' - Service user, Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project

Introduction

In this section, we look at each priority area, what the supporting evidence tells us [27] , the key objectives and the approach that will be taken to shape relevant outcomes, indicators and performance measurement to ensure delivery of this strategy for Scotland. Throughout all four priorities, we want to ensure that women, children and young people's voices are heard and their rights respected.

Priority 1: Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls

Through this priority, we want to ensure that:

  • Positive gender roles are promoted.
  • People enjoy healthy, positive relationships.
  • Children and young people develop an understanding of safe, healthy and positive relationships from an early age.
  • Individuals and communities recognise and challenge violent and abusive behaviour.

What we know

Community attitudes towards violence against women and girls are a key predictor of perpetration of such abuse. They can also heavily influence women and children's own responses to victimisation, as well as those of wider society and potentially be a barrier to children and young people speaking out about gender based violence. Gender stereotypes play a central role, with individuals who hold discriminatory attitudes being more likely to tolerate violence and abuse against women. Evidence shows the criminal justice system has an important role not only in dealing with perpetrators but also in shaping community perceptions, with strong legal sanctions encouraging community intolerance of violence against women and girls. The media has a powerful influence in either reinforcing or challenging the attitudes and norms that contribute to violence against women. Numerous studies link sexualised violence in the media to increases in violence towards women, rape myth acceptance and anti-women attitudes. Despite the power of the media, it is generally recognised that cultural change will not be achieved through media campaigns alone, though some community development initiatives have been found to increase the effectiveness of such campaigns by reinforcing messages at the local level.

Going forward

An important first step is to raise awareness of what constitutes violence and abuse, and that it is unacceptable in any form. We will work to increase awareness of the appropriate actions that can be taken in response to violence against women and girls, whether in relation to services for those affected or legal responses. The earlier that there is a shift in discriminatory cultures, attitudes and behaviours the better, and the education system is a key settings for this kind of intervention. Education and early years professionals therefore have an opportunity to lead the way in attitudinal change, being in a prime position to nurture future generations on positive gender roles and healthy, equal relationships from an early age. Beyond education, leadership across the public, private and third sectors will be crucial in helping to develop positive cultures and behaviours around violence against women and girls, and create conditions where there is an understanding of the needs of those experiencing violence and abuse. The different forms of violence against women will demand specific interventions and these will be explored further; for example, we will work with others to develop thinking around Commercial Sexual Exploitation and ensure that women working in this area are protected from violence and abuse, and supported to exit situations where they are being sexually exploited for commercial purposes. In relation to girls, children and young people, violence and the impact of violence require specific interventions based on the principles of Getting it Right for Every Child [28] , the national approach to improving outcomes through public services that support the wellbeing of children and young people. The more we all do to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls, the sooner we will achieve our shared goal of preventing and eradicating the problem altogether.

Priority 2: Women and girls thrive as equal citizens: socially, culturally, economically and politically

Through this priority, we want to ensure that:

  • Women and girls are safe, respected and equal in our communities.
  • Women and men have equal access to power and resources.

What we know

Societies in which women's participation is valued, and where there are fewer economic, social or political differences in power between men and women, have lower levels of violence. But equality alone will not suffice; we know from Scandinavian countries, where high levels of violence against women and girls persist despite those countries being close to achieving gender equality in the workforce, that the attitudes and structures that underpin the violence must also be addressed. Women still do the majority of unpaid care work, whether for children or for older dependents, and this impacts dramatically both on earnings while in work and on pensions in later life. Adding to the problem, welfare reforms that have been introduced by the UK Government are predicted to have a significant negative impact on women's resources. Under the new Universal Credit system, payment will be made as one single household payment - representing a loss of independent income for women in couples where the Universal Credit is to be paid to the man. The single earnings disregard meanwhile, may weaken the incentive for many second earners and in turn, see a return to a male breadwinner model and a reduction in women's financial independence. This is in addition to welfare reforms already implemented that impact disproportionately on women [29] , a fact which has also been recognised by Parliament in the Welfare Committee's report on Women and Social Security [30] . It is now recognised that these changes will impact in a range of ways, including on young people who want to leave home to escape domestic abuse. Poverty restricts opportunities, increases health inequalities and impacts heavily on life choices. Alcohol and drug misuse are other secondary factors that can increase both the frequency and severity of violence against women and girls; we are clear that men do not abuse because of alcohol or drugs, but they can lower inhibitions and exacerbate behaviours. Women express much higher levels of fear for their personal security in public places, whether on or waiting for transport, or in the use of car parks, particularly at night. This fear can, in turn, place a constraint on the mobility of women and their participation in public life as they factor personal safety into routine decisions and activities. Addressing these issues alone will not eliminate violence, but it will support broader prevention efforts.

Going forward

Tackling poverty amongst women is key if we are to reduce gender power imbalances. We will work to improve access to decision making structures and processes and increase political representation. Tackling occupational segregation is another aspect of this work, as is improving access to high quality child care for parents. We want the women of Scotland to enjoy the same opportunities in life as men - this includes women being economically independent, with equal opportunity to achieve their full potential in all sectors and at all levels of the labour market. This requires continued action to tackle the barriers to work facing different women, to eliminate the pay gap, and to address the overrepresentation of women in lower paid jobs and the underrepresentation of women in senior positions. We must address the systemic barriers to employment for women and their resulting lifetime earnings differential with men, basing interventions on a full understanding of the value and nature of women's contribution to Scotland's economy and society. And we want women to feel safe where they live and work and to be confident that they can go about all aspects of their lives without fear.

Priority 3: Interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people

Through this priority, we want to ensure that:

  • Justice responses are robust, swift, consistent and coordinated.
  • Women, children and young people access relevant, effective and integrated services.
  • Service providers competently identify violence against women and girls, and respond effectively to women, children and young people affected.

What we know

There is a range of expertise and support available in third sector organisations which provide support and provision to those affected by gender based violence. Public services have a vital role in delivering mainstream services and in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of women and children affected by violence and abuse, and collaborative working between both sectors through multi-agency activity has been productive. Women, children and young people can have different support needs depending on the form(s) of violence experienced and individual circumstances. Some of the areas where diversity of provision is relevant include maternity, mental health (including services for children and adolescents), primary care, substance misuse, accident and emergency, community nursing and sexual health services, safe accommodation, counselling and support services, advocacy and legal services and longer-term support for the recovery of those affected by violence. However, it is not just the range of services we provide that is important - where, how and when we provide them is also critical. Early identification and intervention is essential to eliminating violence and its negative consequences in women and children's lives. We have known for some time that only a minority of those affected by violence report it to the police or seek help from specialist women's services [31] . Whilst work by both women and children's organisations and statutory agencies including the police continues to address the issue of reporting, this remains an issue.

Going forward

We want an integrated system of mainstream, specialist and third sector services capable of delivering a coherent and consistent response across a diverse range of needs, that allows for flexibility to reflect local circumstances. It is vital that services that come into daily contact with women, children and young people are able to identify those at risk and offer an appropriate, safe and consistent response - from police officers, teachers, community workers, social workers and housing officers, to GPs, midwives, dentists, bar reporters, and children and young people's services [32] . We must be able to offer those affected or at risk a professional, capable and compassionate response from their very first point of contact; an integrated response that is quick and easy to access, that shares information sensitively and appropriately between services and in doing so, supports women and children. Greater consistency of delivery and improved information sharing between services will also increase our collective ability to keep women and children safe and hold perpetrators to account, along with encouraging individual organisations to consider the implications that their actions have on other services. Responses must recognise the connection between different aspects of inequality and discrimination, informed by the perspectives of survivors and those at risk and include a range of complementary mainstream and specialist support services. We want to have clear priorities for public sector agencies: from routine enquiry within NHS services to support early identification, through to clear national and local protocols, and data collection and information sharing protocols. We want to ensure that women and children with complex needs or at additional risk of discrimination are supported. We want to intervene sooner for better outcomes, in a way that is informed by the perspectives of survivors. A number of projects are already adopting an early intervention approach - a trend most evident with regard to domestic abuse where the tendency towards repeat abuse highlights the importance of acting early to prevent further harm.

Priority 4: Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response

Through this priority, we want to ensure that:

  • Justice responses are robust, swift, consistent and coordinated.
  • Men who carry out violence against women and girls are identified early and held to account by the criminal and civil justice system.
  • Relevant links are made between the experience of women, children and young people in the criminal and civil system.

What we know

The justice system has an important role in the enforcement of the law and prevention of violence against women and girls. The robust approach of Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to the detection and prosecution of offences involving domestic abuse and sexual assault sends an unequivocal message - there is no place for this type of offending in our society, it will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators of violence and abuse can expect the full force of the law to hold them to account for their behaviour. Prosecution is important for survivors because it addresses the crime they have experienced, and can help their recovery by acknowledging their status as survivors. But there are still barriers to prosecution; these range from the reluctance of victims to report, through to the length of time each stage of the criminal and civil justice process can take.

Domestically and internationally, there is growing consensus that prosecution alone is not enough to eradicate the problem of violence against women and girls. Where appropriate, perpetrators must be supported to change their behaviour and they must be identified early. Currently, perpetrators are most commonly identified by the police although there is some evidence that a small minority of perpetrators may be identified by seeking help at crisis moments. However perpetrators are identified, what follows is intervention. One approach is the Caledonian System which has been piloted in 13 local authorities across Scotland. This involves running an integrated service (with parallel men's, women's and children's services) aimed at addressing domestic abuse perpetrated by adult male offenders and improving the lives of women and children. A evaluation of the System has been commissioned and is expected to report in 2016.

Going forward

We must make it clear in everything we say and do that violence against women and girls in any shape or form will not be tolerated in Scotland. We want to reinforce the consistent message that all forms of violence against women and girls are not acceptable and perpetrators must expect to receive a response which is proportionate but equally swift and effective. We want women, children and young people affected by violence and abuse to be supported by a sensitive, efficient and effective justice system. We want the men who carry out such violence to be identified earlier and held to account for their behaviour. In this context, we will continue to take action to reduce unnecessary delays in how long it takes a case involving violence against women or girls to move through the court process and the impact on the victim, their children and effect on the level of attrition. We will take action to ensures the voice of the child is heard in family cases, and relevant links will be made between the experience of women, children and young people within the criminal and civil justice systems. We recognise that at the conclusion of a criminal case there may be a continued process in the civil courts, and we want to ensure that victims are treated with the utmost respect and compassion during the entire process of seeking justice, and that they receive effective support at all stages of their interaction with the Justice system and beyond that. We want robust enforcement to address re-offending and to ensure that men get the support they need to change their behaviour at the earliest opportunity. We will ensure that the criminal law reflects the true nature of abuse within relationships, including coercive control, and that law enforcement agencies have the necessary powers to bring perpetrators to justice. We will consider the potential of technology, such as pre-recorded evidence, to better protect children and vulnerable witnesses within the justice system. And we will undertake research into jury decision making to improve understanding of the factors that influence juries' decisions in solemn criminal cases.


Contact

Post: Scottish Government
Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector
Directorate for Local Government and Communities
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ