Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre and Women’s Aid East and Midlothian commissioned this research to understand how many young women and non-binary people in East Lothian have experienced abuse or harm in their own relationships, and how many have experienced sexual assault. It looks at where they go for support currently, if there are barriers to getting support, and what kind of support is needed.
The project was funded by the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership. We are hopeful that from the findings of this project, services will evolve to better suit the needs of young women in the local community.
YWCA Scotland carried out this research alongside a group of eight young women aged between 16 – 25 from East Lothian who designed the project, the Young Women’s Research Collective. A survey ran from May – September 2022 and collected a total of 110 complete responses from young women in East Lothian.
The report, Your Vision: Support for Young Women in East Lothian found that 31% of survey respondents had been in a relationship with someone who was abusive or harmed them physically or emotionally. 36% of survey respondents had experienced sexual assault.
Of the survey respondents who had experienced either abuse or sexual assault, 41% had not received support, and 12% had. 73% knew someone who had experienced abuse or harm within their relationship, or sexual assault.
The report found that there were many barriers that prevented them from accessing support. These include feeling shame, stigma and fear about getting support; living in a small community and fear of being judged or recognised; accessibility of support and transport difficulties; waiting lists; and not being ready. As well as feeling their experiences were not serious enough to constitute support.
“I didn’t think I was worthy of support when others might need it more.” – Research Participant
The report also found that young women need validation that they are deserving of support before reaching out. Highlighting the need for better education about healthy and unhealthy relationships, intimate partner abuse and sexual assault.
It was incredibly important to the young women that support meets the needs and circumstances of each individual as well as having accessible and local services. They want to feel understood by workers and to be supported by people they relate to.
Improving support for young women in East Lothian relies on having adequate funding and resources for services to develop to meet their needs. Current local services do not have the capacity or resources to meet the demand for support and should be adequately funded and capacity increased.
Mridul Wadhwa, CEO at Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, said:
“This report is hard reading. There are unfortunately no surprises in the statistics of the extent of sexual violence young women experience but it is heart breaking that many survivors feel unable to access support. Survivors are telling us what they need to be able to access trauma recovery support but they are also demanding that all of us work harder to tackle the inequalities that injustice in which gender based violence thrives.
“Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre would like to see sustainable investment in the provision of services for young women and non-binary survivors in East Lothian. We would like for all of us who have responsibility for young people in our society to work together to challenge the societal norms in which gender based violence thrives.”
Julie Watson, CEO at Women’s Aid East and Midlothian said:
“Women’s Aid East and Midlothian wanted to participate in this research as we wanted to hear directly from young women; we wanted to be clearer about what they needed from services when they have been subjected to abuse within a relationship so that we could better meet their needs.
“This report findings aren’t so much a surprise although the prevalence, experiences and barriers to support definitely makes difficult reading. I am very grateful to all the young women who participated in this research – their work has provided us with great insight – we have been reassured that we are offering the right type of support, but this research will guide us to raise awareness about the work that we do, promote our services better and make very clear to young women and girls that Women’s Aid is here for them too.”
Rhianna Mallia, Research and Impact Manager at YWCA Scotland, said:
“This report is a call to action; improving support for young women in East Lothian relies on having adequate funding and resource for services to develop and evolve to meet the needs of young people in the local area. The report highlights three main areas of focus for services; raising awareness of what supports are available and who they are for, widening education about abuse and sexual assault to reach those who are not able to attend school, and most importantly, for services to have adequate funding and resource to deliver supports in line with what young people need.
“Young women talked about feeling shame, stigma and fear about getting support, or feeling their experiences were not serious enough to constitute support as the main barrier to them accessing services. This needs to change, young women need to feel they are entitled to the support they deserve and then have a service that can meet them where they are.”
Devon Taylor, Member of The Young Women’s Research Collective, said:
“East Lothian is a beautiful and a fairly safe place. It is easy to forget about all the trauma and violence when it is hidden behind closed doors, behind silenced mouths. I was shocked to see the reasons why young women were not accessing support services, to see that they did not feel their pain was enough to warrant support.
“For the future, I hope that all young women will be aware of what an unhealthy relationship is, how to recognise if they are in one, where to find support if they need it and to feel comfortable in seeking it.
“I want this research to help break the silence of abuse and reduce the stigma of getting support in East Lothian. I want the young women of East Lothian to thrive and feel safe. I learned how stretched the support services here are for resources. Women need to speak out and get the support they need, and the services must have the capacity to support them.”
Our prevention team have put together this resource for young people affected by sexual violence.
- STAR project supports young people aged 12-18 in Edinburgh and the Lothians, who’ve experienced sexual violence. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- East Lothian Sexual Abuse Service (ELSAS) supports survivors over the age of 18 in East Lothian, who’ve experienced sexual violence. Email: email@example.com.
- Women’s Aid East and Midlothian support for women and children and young people living with domestic abuse. Support line: 0131 561 5800 (Mon- Fri, 9am – 4pm) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline 08088 01 03 02 (5pm – midnight every night) offers free and confidential support and information to anyone affected by sexual violence.
- Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is 24/7 for anyone, of any gender or sexuality, who wants support around domestic abuse. Call: 0800 027 1234. Email/webchat: www.sdafmh.org.uk