A teenager has compiled a “powerful” and “devastating” document that brings together more than 60 stories of sexual violence in Shetland.
With the help of Shetland Rape Crisis (SRC) 16-year-old Rhea, has made the anonymous responses public in an effort to force Shetlanders to accept that sexual violence “happens here”.
Rhea is a volunteer with SRC’s young activist group Bee (Bold, Empowered and Equal), put out an appeal using an anonymous app earlier this year for anyone that wished to share their personal sexual violence story.
And despite keeping the post live for just 24 hours, she was stunned to receive 66 responses – some of which detailed acts of serious sexual violence, such as rape.
She contacted Lisa Ward of Shetland Rape Crisis (SRC) to help her bring together the anonymous responses, and collate them into the powerful “WisToo” document.
The pair believe the document will challenge the widely-held belief that Shetland is a “safe” community. They hope locals will begin to ask tough questions about behaviour they have not challenged in the past.
Sexual violence is described in the document as being any sort of sexual contact that the victim does not freely agree to. The spectrum of stories included in the final document range from incidents of cat-calling, to women and girls being groped at work or in pubs, to serious incidents of sexual abuse and rape.
Ms Ward said that though she works with stories like these on a daily basis, she found reading the responses “quite emotionally affecting”.
“It’s very powerful – it’s quite devastating to read all that in one go.
“What really struck me in particular is how young some of these people are.”
Rhea said that she was glad that the stories covered a wide base, because it showed that “serious things do happen up here” and not just on the mainland.
“I’m kinda glad that there’s some shocking stories in there because it does show it varies.
“It’s not just rape and more serious acts.
“I’m hoping that people start to learn that there’s more to sexual assault than just the serious stuff.”
Many of the stories do not give the age of the victim, but those that do are startlingly young – one being an eight-year-old who talks of being sexually assaulted in a Lerwick street.
The number of stories featuring young children is alarming, but Ms Ward said that was not unusual for Shetland.
Rhea said she hoped that people would “change their attitude” towards sexual violence in the isles.
“It happens just as much here as it does anywhere else.
“I kinda hope that other people can realise that, and can educate themselves, and will start to be able to see the signs of when someone is trying to get with someone else.”
• A full and in-depth feature about the #WisToo campaign will be published in Friday’s Shetland Times. It was requested that Rhea’s surname was not included in our online coverage of this story.