A WORLD-LEADING expert in violence against women is visiting Orkney and Shetland this week as a charity revealed support workers have seen their caseload almost double.
Programmes run by Shetland Women’s Aid are full to overflowing but it is in dealing with domestic abuse where they are seeing the biggest demand for help.
Support worker Karen MacKelvie said: “It seems wholly unreal here in seemingly affluent Shetland. Some of the stories we hear would match any written in the media and it’s scary how much still remains behind closed doors.
“It illustrates how important it is not to remain silent about what we’ve seen.”
She said they saw every category of gender-based violence including sexual exploitation and rape.
“By far the biggest category is still domestic abuse, the scourge of homes across the world, where one person in a relationship decides they are entitled to hold the other person hostage in their own home and strip them of their human rights, and it’s time to blow the lid off,” she added.
“It’s time to have a real honest look at Shetland life and Shetland attitudes, and admit that some of them are due for an upgrade.“
Orkney Women’s Aid has seen a 40 per cent increase in its caseload over the last two years, with staff declaring part of the reason being down to more women feeling comfortable to come forward.
It comes after new Scottish Government figures showed a rise of 11 per cent in sexual violence across the country in 2014/15 from 8,604 to 9,557 - the highest total for 44 years.
Shetland Women’s Aid say the islands are no worse than the rest of the country but it wants to challenge any perception that Shetland and Orkney are immune to the issues.
To help tackle the problem, Michael Kaufman, co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, a group of men working to end violence against women, has been invited to the islands.
Mr Kaufman, who has worked extensively with the United Nations, said: “In Scotland, in Canada where I’m from, and all around the world, women have been courageously standing up to abusive relationships and working to raise public awareness about the violence committed by some men.
“Finally, more and more men are saying, ‘we belong at your side.’ After all, the majority of men don’t use physical, sexual, or emotional violence in our relationships.
“But historically we’ve been silent about the violence committed by some of our brothers. Through that silence we’ve allowed the violence to continue.
“Now, many men are looking at their own attitudes and behaviour. More are learning to question what goes on around them, whether sexual harassment at work, to sexual and physical violence in relationships.”
His visit is being funded by the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and he will be accompanied by chief inspector Graham Goulden, who said: “This visit from Michael Kaufman to Scotland will explore the impact of gender inequality and make links to violence against women.”
Mr Kaufman will also be visiting Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow during his time in Scotland.