Analysis: More needs to be done to protect youngsters against rape
SURVEYS suggest that young women experience high levels of sexual violence – a NSPCC survey in 2009 found that a third of teenage girls in a relationship suffer an unwanted sexual act.
Many young women tell us how routine sexual bullying has become, facilitated by mobile phones (so called “sexting”) and social media such as Facebook.
Even in this context, however, the new figures from the Crown Office showing that 42 per cent of victims of sexual offences are under 16 are shocking.
Sexual violence can have a devastating impact for anyone who experience it, but these figures suggest that there is much more we need to do to protect young people of both sexes.
We are hearing of increasing numbers of cases where the perpetrator is also under 16 – as a society we need to look very carefully at how and why for some young people sexual arousal is linked with violation.
There is a clear need to provide safe and non-threatening spaces for young people to explore their thoughts, feelings and values in relation to sex and to consider how consent can be negotiated.
We need to challenge the deeply held notion of rape as a stranger jumping out from behind a bush, and broaden people’s understanding of the reality of sexual violence, which most commonly involves someone known, often with little or no additional violence.
Under the new Sexual Offences Scotland Act, rape is penile penetration of a woman or a man without their free agreement.
The law is clear – having sex with someone who is too drunk to consent is rape. We need to do far more to make sure that the general public, and particularly young people, know what rape actually is.
• Sandy Brindley is national co-ordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland.