Measures needed to cut persistent sexual violence in Scotland

26th April, 2021 8:28 am

Tougher measures to tackle gender-based violence are needed in Scotland, campaigners and politicians have said after figures highlighted blackspots for sexual offences.

A breakdown of crimes, including rape and assault, last year shows that the highest number, 203, were recorded in the Anderston/City/Yorkhill area of Glasgow, followed by Edinburgh’s Liberton/Gilmerton ward, with 102. Govan, in Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow Southside constituency, had 100, as did Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss villages in Fife.

A total of 13,240 incidents were reported last year, an average of more than 1,000 a month. When the number of sexual offences is adjusted to account for population, the highest rate was recorded in the police division of Fife, with 32.3 crimes for every 10,000 people. The rate for Tayside was 31.1, for Dumfries and Galloway 29.2 and for Greater Glasgow 28.2.

The data were released by Police Scotland after a request by this newspaper for a national breakdown of sexual crimes and offences in the wake of the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard in London last month. The case reopened the debate about the safety of women and girls, with Reclaim the Night vigils held across the UK, including in Edinburgh. Hannah Bardell, the SNP MSP, was among those who said curfews banning men from the streets after 6pm should be considered in areas where women had been killed.

The figures, which include online offending, domestic violence and crimes against male victims, raise questions about why sexual offences are persistently high in some areas. In Fife, about 4,500 reports of domestic abuse are made each year. Sexual crimes, including rape, have reached 1,000 incidents regularly every year since 2015-16.

This month Derek Adams, 59, a physiotherapist from Fife, was jailed for nine years for crimes committed against women and children over more than 20 years. At the High Court in Edinburgh he was convicted of 12 offences, including two rapes and an attempted rape.

Janet Henderson, manager at Lochgelly-based Saje Scotland, which aims to reduce domestic violence and empower women, told the Dunfermline Press last month: “Even if you’re just going for a run or to the pub, whether we are safe is still running through our mind.”

The data on sexual offences is also likely to inform the debate on how to make public spaces safer for women.

Jennifer Layden, a Glasgow councillor and chairwoman of the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership, said a review of public realms was planned when Covid restrictions are lifted to identify measures to make streets and parks safer. These could include more street lighting in notorious blackspots such as the city’s Anderston/City/Yorkhill ward.

With the Holyrood elections less than a fortnight away, the parties have pledged to act. The Conservatives’ manifesto includes a commitment to scrap the “not proven” verdict often returned in rape trials and to hold a national campaign that would focus on schools to challenge attitudes towards sexual harassment.

Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservative candidate in Glasgow, said: “These figures are extremely concerning. Behind the statistics are real victims — our mothers, sisters and daughters — whose lives may never be the same again. No one should accept the notion that sex attacks be considered one of these things that just happens.”

The data shows that many areas of Scotland recorded five or fewer sexual crimes last year, including Bearsden in West Dunbartonshire, Torry in Ayrshire and Fauldhouse in Lanarkshire.

However, the actual number of sexual offences is likely to be higher than official figures suggest — the UN Women UK’s survey collected by YouGov recently showed that 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 had been harassed in public spaces yet only 4 per cent reported the incidents.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sam McCluskey said: “We are acutely aware that overall sexual offences are still under-reported and the reasons for this are complex. Police Scotland remains committed to working closely with partners, especially support and advocacy services, to encourage anyone to report these crimes. I want to reassure anyone who has experienced sexual crime, no matter when, to come forward and report it to us. We will always listen and take action on all reports.”

 

Source: The Times

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