The seismic vote that took place in Ireland this time last week is a milestone for progress and for the rights of women to live free from control. Rightly it is being celebrated, as is the work of countless activists that brought us to this point, but the fight to liberate women from abuses of power and coercion is not restricted to our bodies, and it is happening right here in Scotland, right now.One reason we at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre were so invested in the result of the Irish referendum is because the limitation of access to contraception and abortion is a form of gender-based violence in itself. Another is that for women who experience domestic abuse this - frequently coupled with sexual violence - is a tactic often used by perpetrators to control their partner.
As part of Stalking Awareness Week and to celebrate the launch of our new resource on Reporting Stalking we checked in for a quick Q&A with Sarah who works at a local Women’s Aid service to find out how she is getting on using FollowItApp, our innovative new mobile app that supports victim-survivors of stalking to document their experience.
Very often there’s a mismatch between people’s idea of what stalking is, and what the law in Scotland has to say. Scots Law says that the crime of stalking is a course of conduct - this means an incident that takes place two or more times - that places another person in a state of fear or alarm. That means that non-criminal acts, for example sending a text message that says ‘your hair looks nice today’, become criminal and can therefore be reported when they happen twice or more and when they cause the victim to feel afraid. The above text could easily make someone feel afraid, because this is intended to let them know that they are being watched. There are no rules about who can and can’t be a stalker; it can be a friend, acquaintance, or even a total stranger, but most of the time it is a partner or ex-partner and stalking is often experienced as part of domestic abuse.
The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre welcomes the launch of Scotland’s new
Domestic Abuse Bill.
At the moment, there is a significant gap between criminal justice responses to and the evidence and experience of women who are subject to domestic abuse. Without legislation that encompasses and criminalises the broad range of abusive tactics perpetrators use against victims, including psychological, emotional, financial, sexual and physical abuse, women are too often left vulnerable, unsupported by the legal framework and unable to access justice.