09 December 2022

Latest updates from Aberdeenshire's Violence Against Women Partnership

Aberdeenshire’s Violence Against Women Partnership (VAWP) has been updating councillors on its action plan to prevent and eliminate violent behaviour from men.

Members of the Education and Children’s Services Committee considered and commented on the report about women, children and young people who have experienced violence from a male perpetrator. 

The Aberdeenshire Violence Against Women Partnership (VAWP) brings together a range of statutory and voluntary agencies in Aberdeenshire with the aim of improving agency responses to women, children and young people who have experienced violence from a male perpetrator.

By adopting a gender definition, the partnership does not deny or minimise the use of violence against men or within same-sex relationships. The gendered analysis is a reflection that women and girls are disproportionately affected by particular forms of violence because they are women and girls. 

Chief Social Work Officer and Head of Children’s Services Leigh Jolly said: “In 2020/21 there were 65,251 domestic abuse incidents recorded by Police Scotland across Scotland. That's one incident reported every nine minutes.

“Around four out of every five of these incidents had a female victim and a male accused. On average, victims experience 50 incidents of abuse before asking for help and nine times more women than men are killed by their partner or their ex-partner. 

“In the UK, 51% of girls have experienced public sexual harassment since June 2020 and 35% of women do not feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark. 

“In Aberdeenshire, 65 per 10,000 incidents of domestic abuse are reported, and we know that women enduring domestic abuse in rural areas like Aberdeenshire are half as likely as urban victims to report the abuse. Abuse in rural communities can last on average 25% longer.

“In urban areas, attitudes to violence against women in Scotland showed that only 58% of people in Scotland believe that women who wear revealing clothing on a night out are not to blame for being assaulted or raped, with 60% saying the same of women who are drunk and around a quarter think that women often lie about being sexually assaulted or raped - and nearly two in five believe that rape results from men being unable to control a physical need.”

The Partnership is committed to preventing and eradicating violence and ensuring the right support is available and accessible to women and children who have experienced abuse.

Since its launch it has developed a webpage signposting people to support and raising awareness of domestic abuse; produced a guide to domestic abuse assistance in Aberdeenshire; created a training course; worked in schools to deliver input on healthy relationships and consent; and supported gender inequality campaigns.

It also commissioned a multi-agency audit of child protection plans where domestic abuse was present to gather an understanding of how well practitioners recognise and support women who experience abuse, their children and how perpetrators are held to account. 

The outcome of the audit will then be used on a multi-agency basis to support good practice and identify and respond to training needs.

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee Gillian Owen said: “This was a really important report which shines a light on a significant area of work and one that we all need to take very seriously.

“It was highly emotive and powerful, with the voices and thoughts of those with lived experience really coming to the fore and leaves a profound effect on the reader.”

The partnership’s future goals include developing more meaningful ways to engage with women and children to ensure their voice is at the heart of the strategy; to further understand the impact and increasing knowledge and awareness of domestic abuse in rural communities; supporting the role out of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme across schools in Aberdeenshire; and to recruit a Violence Against Women Co-ordinator to drive forward the work of the VAWP.

Leigh added: “The VAWP has a real challenge ahead promoting an understanding that Violence Against Women stems from gender inequality which can be seen in gender stereotyping and an acceptance that women can be referred to, spoken to and treated in a certain way by men. 

“What is often thought to be a ‘funny’ or ‘a harmless’ comment contributes towards these stereotypes and feeds the view that ‘it’s ok’ to behave this way. 

“Men who do perpetrate violence hold those very same gender stereotypes and normalise it.”

The Aberdeenshire Violence Against Women Partnership (VAWP) brings together Aberdeenshire Council, Grampian Women’s Aid, Police Scotland, Rape Crisis Grampian, Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, NHS Grampian, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), Scottish Fire Service and Alcohol and Drugs Action.