Category Archives: Blog posts

Winners of the 2018 Write to End Violence Against Women Awards

Picture of Christina McKelvie MSP, standing with Peter Swindon, Rosie Hilton, and Leslie McMillan holding trophies - all smiling!

A huge thank you to all of you who attended the 2018 Write Awards this week. We were thrilled to see such a packed event with so many people passionate about good media representation about violence against women.

Our compère Jude Henderson did a fantastic job of coordinating the ceremony and keeping things running smoothly.

We would like to give thanks to our wonderful MSP and speaker Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities; it is wonderful to have MSPs who are actively and vocally challenging the narrative that says violence against women is ever acceptable. Huge thanks as well to our wonderful panel of judges and of course all the writers who entered this year’s competition.

Zero Tolerance is supported in the running of the Write Awards by White Ribbon Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Everyday Victim Blaming, Rape Crisis Scotland, Forth Valley Rape Crisis,  and media partner, The Daily Record newspaper.

We are grateful to our 2018 sponsors, NUJ Scotland, NUJ Glasgow Branch, The Young Women’s Movement, and the University of Strathclyde.

Winner of Best Article – News Reporting, Sponsored by the Daily Record

Peter Swindon, The Herald

Students fear ‘academic consequences’ if they report sex attacks on campus


Peter Swindon, smiling, holding a trophy, next to Anna Burnside


Winner of Best Article – News Features, Sponsored by NUJ Scotland and NUJ Glasgow Branch

Dani Garavelli, The Scotsman

Insight: The Edinburgh clinic helping sex workers stay safe

Sadly, Dani could not join us on the night but we will be getting her trophy to her soon!


Winner of Best Blog or Comment, Sponsored by the University of Strathclyde

Lesley McMillan & Deborah White, Gender Politics at Edinburgh

Technologising Rape and Sexual Assault: Can we really innovate the problem away?

Karen Boyle standing with Lesley McMillan. Lesley is smiling, holding a trophy


Winner of Year of Young People Award, Sponsored by the Young Women’s Movement

Rosie Hilton, The Student Newspaper

The everyday resistance of surviving sexual violence

Patrycja Kupiec standing with Rosie Hilton. Rosie is smiling and holding a trophy.


Shortlist announced for the 2018 Awards

We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2018 Write to End Violence Against Women Awards.

This year we received a wonderful range of submissions across all the categories. These were reviewed by a panel to form the shortlist below. To read more about what we were looking for when we review submissions, read Handle with Care, our guide for journalists.

We look forward to welcoming all the shortlisted authors to the awards ceremony on Wednesday 28th November, where the winners will be announced.

News Reporting – Sponsored by the Daily Record

Caitlin Logan Parties unite to pressure Crown Office over risk of ‘re-traumatising’ rape survivors with new prosecution policy

Caitlin Logan “Malicious misinformation” on gender recognition is impacting on trans young people, says charity

Peter Swindon Students fear ‘academic consequences’ if they report sex attacks on campus

David Thomson STUC youth conference demands independent inquiry into sex for rent scandal

News Feature – Sponsored by NUJ Glasgow Branch and NUJ Scotland

Dani GaravelliInsight: The Edinburgh clinic helping sex workers stay safe

Dani GaravelliInjustice cries out at Kavanaugh hearing

Kirsty StricklandWomen’s Aid workers share horror stories from women and children who seek sanctuary over Christmas

Caitlin LoganCourt process can “cause as much damage” for victims as domestic abuse, say women’s rights advocates

Best Blog or Comment – Sponsored by the University of Strathclyde

Lesley MacMillan and Deborah White – Technologising Rape and Sexual Assault: Can we really innovate the problem away?

Shona Craven – Santa Fe shooting: Stop telling girls to put male feelings first

Hailey Maxwell The Scottish Left Must Do More On Sexual Violence

Hailey Maxwell – Exhibition Review. Antony Connelly at Minus: “If You Got The Money” 

Year of Young People – Sponsored by the Young Women Movement

Katie McPeake Words for wounds

Rosie HiltonThe everyday resistance of surviving sexual violence

Elsa, Anna, Kirsty from Dingwall Academy Time’s Up

Georgina HayesWolves in Feminist Clothing

Wooden Spoon

This year’s wooden spoon award will be announced at the ceremony.

Media representation of violence against women: why do the papers give celebrities a pass?

This blog is the fourth in a series in which Claire Simpson, PhD student at the University of Stirling discusses the results of her media monitoring project. Read her first, second and third blog here. Over the next few weeks we will publish blogs from Claire where she takes in an in depth look at some of the results of her study.

During my media monitoring I noticed several stories on Violence Against Women (VAW) involved a celebrity. The reporting on these incidents varied greatly between celebrity as perpetrator and celebrity as victim/survivor. Eight articles mentioned a celebrity: two as perpetrator and six as victim. All but one column were in the tabloids. This blog will examine the difference in representations of VAW dependent on the celebrity’s role.

Both stories where the celebrity was the culprit detailed Danny Dyer’s attempts at obtaining pornographic images from one of his fans. The two articles1+2 were front page news for The Sun as well as a double page spread inside. Dyer and the woman exchanged messages over Twitter where he sent her photos of his genitalia and “begged”1 the woman for sexually explicit photos and videos. There is no mention of what Dyer had asked of the woman on either front page3+4, they only refer to the images he sent her. The initial story includes a humorous headline written in cockney rhyming slang, mocking the way Dyer speaks1. Such headlines trivialise VAW and therefore downplay how serious and prevalent it is. The UN reports 10% of women in the EU have been subject to explicit or offensive messages or images via text, email or social media5

Claire blog 4.1

Headline from The Sun, 23 February 2017

Alongside this article is a photo of Dyer with the caption “Dyered and Emotional”1 suggesting his behaviour is a result of a poor mental state. Showing an image of the perpetrator appearing weak will generate sympathy for him and distract from the woman’s experience. The following day The Sun reported on the threatening messages Dyer’s daughter had sent to the woman2 There was also a column discussing concerns of Dyer developing a sex addiction6. This is used to justify his multiple affairs and the interaction with this fan. Sex addiction appears to be a popular justification for VAW by the Scottish press; it was mentioned in several reports of an alleged rape by a Navy sailor7-9. Linking Dyer’s mental health to his acts helps perpetuate myths about sexual violence being a result of uncontrollable urges and desires when it is the opposite.

“Not one story spoke to the woman, instead centring the column on the perpetrator, his thoughts and feelings.”

Stories on celebrity victims of VAW received significantly less column space than that of Dyer. All of the articles occupied less than half a page, one third had no by line and none qualified as front page news. The headlines of these stories in The Sun used alliteration, sensationalist language and terminology downplaying the seriousness of the violence for instance, referring to a stalker as a “pest”10. Not one story spoke to the woman instead centring the column on the perpetrator, his thoughts and feelings.

Four of the articles discussed the prosecution of Jemima Khan’s stalker with three of them mentioning the perpetrator’s statement that Khan “doth protest too much”10-12 and two where he calls her a “silly woman”10+11. The column in the Daily Mail included a statement implying the stalker’s medication for skin cancer influenced his behaviour11.

Claire blog 4.2

Daily Mail headline, 20 February 2017

These comments have a two-fold effect. They lessen the trauma and seriousness of the crime whilst portraying the man as mentally unstable thus perpetuating the fiction that those who commit VAW are not sane, rational, and therefore normal, men. Khan’s stalker was more than a “pest”. A pest is an irritant whereas stalking is much more than a simple nuisance, it is harassment and it is a crime. Ms Khan was subject to this unwanted attention for years causing her fear and distress. The sexual harassment Dyer inflicted was considered big news where he was the victim of an addiction and poor mental state but, in comparison, the harassment Khan suffered barely registers, at least according to the press.

Women’s experiences of violence need to be acknowledged. The justifications of such actions need to stop. All forms of VAW are serious crimes and they must be reported as such.

1. Dale, R., 2017. Danny Asked for Butcher’s at me Boat and Bottle.. then Whipped out his Brighton*. The Scottish Sun, 24 Feb. pp6+7
2. Dale, R., 2017. Dani’s Hairdryer. The Scottish Sun, 25 Feb. pp4+5
3. N.A., 2017. Dyer Sexted Me Pic of his Ender. The Scottish Sun, 24 Feb. p1
4. Dale, R., 2017. Sext Fan Fury of Dyer’s Girl. The Scottish Sun, 25 Feb, p1
5. UN Women., 2016. Facts and Figures: Ending Violence Against Women. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 16/04/2017]
6. Wootton, D., 2017. Friends Fear Ender’s Becoming Sex Addict. The Scottish Sun, 25 Feb. p5
7. N.A., 2017. ‘Rapist Told Mum of Guilt’. Daily Mirror, 21 Feb. p4
8. Taylor, C-A., 2017. Sailor is Cleared of ‘Rape in Sleep’. The Scottish Sun, 23 Feb. p11
9. Camber, R., 2017. She was Asleep and Drunk…I had Sex with Her. Scottish Daily Mail, 21 Feb. p5
10. Mayer, C., 2017. Jem Pest Admits to Stalk Hell. The Scottish Sun, 21 Feb. p18
11. Camber, R., 2017. Jemima Khan ‘Doth Protest Too Much’ Says Stalker Who Tormented Her. Daily Mail, 21 Feb. p27
12. N.A., 2017. Socialite Stalker Guilty. The Times, 21 Feb. p4

The blame shame: why do we persist in holding victims partly responsible for sexual assault?

Annie McLaughlin is the winner of the 2016 Write to End Violence Against Women bursary. She will be writing articles for our media partner, the Sunday Herald, around the topics of violence against women and gender equality. Find out more about Annie here.

This article originally appeared on the Herald Scotland. Read it here.

WHAT makes the perfect rape victim? To most people such a question will seem abhorrent. Yet, despite decades of efforts to change antediluvian attitudes towards sexual assault, the myth persists that some survivors are worthier than others of our outrage, empathy and support.

The belief that a woman should ever be held accountable for an act of sexual violence against her is one that we in the West tend to comfortably attribute to aggressively patriarchal regimes such as that of Saudi Arabia, where women can be tried alongside their rapists for the crime of being in his vicinity in the first place.

Prick the surface of our society’s supposedly more enlightened attitudes towards gender equality however and an insidious sense that women somehow have a responsibility to prevent rape reveals itself, alongside preconceived notions of how a typical victim should behave before, during and after her assault.

New judicial directions have recently come into force in Scotland which aim to counter the still too commonly held belief that a woman who did not struggle against her attacker or immediately report it may be lying about what happened. This will involve judges (where relevant) giving juries clear, factual information to help explain that someone might not fight back during an attack, or tell anyone about what they have experienced straight away.

Controversy was stirred up recently by new Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why, both for its approach to the issue of teen suicide and its depictions of rape and sexual assault. One of the show’s female stars, however, has described her shock at the nature of some of the audience reaction to a scene in which her character, Jessica, is raped by her school’s football captain after she falls asleep at a party.

Alisha Boe said in an interview with news site Elite Daily that she initially presumed “everyone would sympathise with Jessica because of what she’s been through, to me that made the most sense. She’s a survivor and she’s been trying to deal with it and she’s acting out because of it”.

After reading comments from fans of the show online, though, she realised not everyone was sympathetic to Jessica’s plight.

“Basically, people [were] slut-shaming Jessica. [They were] calling her a bitch and … saying she deserved it … and shouldn’t be that drunk at a party and it made me take a second and step back and realize, wow, we as a society are not able to not blame the rape survivor.”

Such comments, however, will ring sickeningly true for many real-life victims of sexual assault who suffer with feelings of guilt after being attacked and feel unable to report or seek help for fear of others’ reactions.

When rape survivor Megan Clark waived her anonymity to speak to the BBC a few weeks ago, the interview made headlines. The 19-year-old was being interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire following the conviction of Ricardo Rodrigues-Fortes-Gomes for raping her in Manchester city-centre last July.

Gomes had attacked Clark by a canal path after meeting her in a Burger King when she was on the way home from a night out with friends. During the the TV interview, Clark said she wouldn’t have reported the attack, if evidence of it hadn’t been filmed by a witness who called the police.

When probed further, she said she’d be unlikely to report any subsequent attack to police if, in Derbyshire’s words, “God forbid” it were to happen again. “But you had been raped!” said Derbyshire.

Many of the BBC Two programme’s viewers will have shared Victoria Derbyshire’s astonishment. Why would the victim of such a horrific crime be reluctant to seek justice? And why, after seeing the man who raped her jailed, would she fail to report any future attack against her?

Government statistics state that, in fact, only around 15 per cent of those who experience sexual violence report to the police. (Of those, only around six per cent result in conviction.) Rape Crisis is clear that the decision on whether to report to the authorities can and should only be made by victims. The charity offers support to those affected by rape and sexual assault regardless of whether or not they choose to contact the police, and cites fear of not being believed as one of the most significant factors influencing people’s decision on whether or not to report sexual assault.

Megan Clark said she found giving evidence in court and watching footage of her rape to be “horrific”. She also said that immediately after the attack, she’d found it hard not to blame herself and that “a few people … put it down to my behaviour”. Had footage of the rape not existed, she said, the case “probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere … it’s just my word against theirs without [that] evidence”.

When Victoria Derbyshire’s interview with Clark hit the newspapers, headlines such as “Interview with rape survivor reveals impact of victim blaming” were conspicuous by their absence. Instead, most newspaper reports focused on Clark’s response to comments made by trial judge Lindsey Kushner QC, who warned that while women were “perfectly entitled to drink themselves into the ground… potential defendants to rape, gravitate towards girls who have been drinking”.

Kushner claimed that “a girl who is drunk is more likely to agree as they are more disinhibited [and] even if they don’t agree they are less likely to fight a man with evil intentions off” and rounded off her sentencing remarks by saying that “if push comes to shove, a girl who has been drunk is less likely to be believed than one who is sober at the time”.

The judge’s comments were condemned by campaign groups such as End Violence Against Women, as tantamount to victim-blaming, but when pressed by Victoria Derbyshire for a response to Kushner’s remarks, Megan Clark said that “she was absolutely right in what she said … she just simply said to be careful basically, which is smart advice. She wasn’t at all victim-blaming”.

Lindsey Kushner’s warning that a drunk rape victim would be less likely to be believed than a sober one was, Clark conceded, “not the way it should be but that’s the harsh reality”.

The Daily Mail landed on Megan Clark’s interpretation with an almost palpable sense of glee, announcing: “Manchester rape victim said drinking warning was right.”

This from a publication that, when recounting the attack in an earlier piece, had reported that Gomes “took [Clark] to a canal path and had sex with her”, carelessly appearing to reframe the rape as a consensual sexual encounter even after Clark’s attacker had been convicted and sentenced.

The Independent’s headline-writers went with, “Rape victim says judge was right to say she put herself in danger by being drunk”, while the Guardian’s opted for: “Woman who was raped backs judge over alcohol warning.” Other reports were largely variations on the same theme.

Clark is entitled to her comments, but the media’s response to them is part of an ongoing narrative that perpetuates myths about sexual violence which put barriers to justice in the way of women like her, and suggests that the blame for rape can sometimes be shared between victims and their abusers.

Overwhelmingly, the media narrative on the Megan Clark interview was one of an age-old debate over women’s culpability for rape. The verdict, it seemed, was in – sometimes it’s our own fault.

The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir praised the young woman’s response as “a drop of common sense in an ocean of outrage” and commended her “incredible bravery” in supposedly coming forward to support Judge Kushner.

Meanwhile, Kushner’s remarks echo those of another now retired judge, Mary Jane Mowat, who in 2014 said that rape conviction rates would “not improve until women stop getting so drunk”.

In an interview to mark her retirement, Mowat bemoaned the difficulties she claimed courts faced in dealing with accusations of rape and sexual assault where women who had been drinking had been unable to fully recall the details of alleged attacks.

It was left to sexual violence campaigners to point out that women who have been incapacitated through alcohol or drugs are incapable of consenting to sex and that, legally, responsibility lies with defendants to prove how they sought and received that consent, rather than on the alleged victim to recall every aspect of events.

Research shows in fact that, whether drunk or sober, victims of sexual assault are often unable to remember their attack in detail. Rather than an indication that a woman is lying or unsure about being attacked, misremembering details can be a direct consequence of being assaulted. A study from the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women in the US, for example, reported that victims might give inconsistent or untrue information when suffering from trauma.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service, said in 2012 that it was in fact the perpetuation of myths about sexual violence rather than women’s inability to fully recall attacks that was responsible for the relatively high number of rape trial acquittals.

The 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found that only 58 per cent of respondents felt that a woman who wore revealing clothing on a night out was “not at all to blame” for being raped. Some 60 per cent said the same of a woman who was very drunk. Around a quarter (23 per cent) agreed that “women often lie about being raped”.

In November last year, research for the European Commission revealed that 22 per cent of British respondents thought that “sexual intercourse without consent may be justified in certain situations”.

Potential scenarios included if the victim was intoxicated, had agreed to go home with someone, wore “revealing, provocative or sexy clothing”, or didn’t physically fight back.

When judges or newspapers commentators take the trouble to warn women of the dangers of making themselves vulnerable to sexual violence, they are often at pains to point out that they, of course, lay the blame for rape firmly at the door of rapists.

Taken to their nastily logical conclusion, however, such remarks frame sexual violence as something akin to dystopian fantasy franchise The Hunger Games, where women who make the “wrong” choices volunteer as tributes while the rest of us are spared.

Most women already modify their own behaviour in an effort to ensure their safety – walking down quiet streets with keys grasped between their knuckles, taking taxis short distances after dark, promising to text friends when they make it home. Yet rape still happens. And despite the persistence of the “stranger danger” stereotype, around 90 per cent of rapes are committed by someone the victim already knows.

When the media reported recently on new research into a form of sexual assault known as “stealthing” – when a man removes a condom during sex without his partner’s knowledge – some commentators saw fit to question whether it can be considered sexual assault at all, despite the fact it’s a clear violation of consent. Others suggested that it should be women’s responsibility to ensure that they protect themselves against it. A headline in The Sun contained a directive to women to “be on guard”, as if we should be able to automatically intuit which men are likely to violate us in this way.

Those who seek to shift some responsibility for preventing assaults onto women fail to see the contradiction in claiming that they are only trying to prevent sexual violence while simultaneously contributing to a narrative that supports its perpetration and discourages its disclosure.

While the myth persists that there is a way to stop rape other than to end some men’s sense of impunity and entitlement to commit it, women will indeed remain vulnerable in their homes, on the streets and in the courts.

Media representation of violence against women: the reality of elderly perpetrators

This blog is the third in a series in which Claire Simpson, PhD student at the University of Stirling discusses the results of her media monitoring project. You can read her first and second blog here. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing blogs from Claire where she takes in an in depth look at some of the results of her study.

This instalment of the media monitoring blog series focuses on the representation of elderly perpetrators of violence against women (VAW). There were 14 articles, 13 of them in the tabloids, in which the perpetrator was a man at least 60 years old. Their crimes ranged from stalking to murder. It is important to analyse these articles as it will help dispel myths about what types of people inflict VAW.

The majority of stories in which the perpetrator was over 60 years old did not question his fitness to stand trial nor did they include his age in the headline. When the man was over 80 his age was always included in the title. Why is VAW presented as more shocking the older the perpetrator? Many of the columns highlighted the age and apparent frailty of the men, sometimes in wonderment at how such a physically or mentally weak individual could be violent/dangerous, other times to create sympathy for him1-5

These viewpoints were occasionally supported by photographs. The Daily Mirror1 was the only paper to include photographs of the elderly men looking frail. One story, in which an 86 year old man stabbed his wife to death, featured an image of him being put into an ambulance on a stretcher. Almost in juxtaposition, this article is the only one from my week of media monitoring to mention VAW as a social issue making this column an example of good and bad practice.

As the murder took place in a retirement home the coverage in the Express2 implied the man was suffering from a mental illness which includes facilities for such conditions whilst The Sun3 reports the killing as a failed suicide pact between the couple.

Creating sympathy for elderly perpetrators reinforces stereotypes of who can commit VAW as these men are portrayed as unlikely culprits. VAW takes many forms, not just physical or sexual abuse, yet these are frequently the only types of violence mentioned. It includes stalking, grooming, financial and emotional abuse. A man does not need to be physically fit to be able to be violent towards women. Failing to discuss the complexity of violence constituting domestic abuse and VAW is to exclude these abuses and women’s experiences as real or true forms of violence.

Another article in the Mirror4 displays an image of an elderly man at court in a wheelchair. He was accused of killing his wife. The article goes on to describe him as frail and details his smart attire. Later in the story, it mentions/compares him to Britain’s oldest convicted murderer, who was 99 years old, and portrays the murder of his wife as a mercy killing due to her ill health. The emphasis of these articles is on the physicality of the violence despite the perpetrators being older and seemingly less capable. VAW is never justifiable, no matter the age of the criminal or the “reason” for the violence. If you can do the crime, you can do the time. If the man had committed the same crime but was 20 years younger he would likely have been treated much differently by the press.

Men in their 60s were described as “beasts”, “depraved” and “deranged”6+7 but no such language was used when the perpetrator was older. These adjectives not only dehumanise the men but suggest “normal”, “sane” men could not inflict VAW therefore reproducing the false notion that only certain types of men are capable of this violence. These men are presented as being mentally unstable but unlike the very elderly perpetrators this is not used to generate sympathy for them, quite the opposite. Mental illness in the comparatively “younger” men is used to present them as a threat/danger. However, mental disorders and medication were also used to explain/justify the violence.

A man in his sixties, previously convicted of sending death threats to a woman, was described as a “nut”5 is thought to have been placed in a “home for troubled adults”5. As part of the defence for the man charged with stalking Jemima Khan was to suggest his medication for skin cancer caused him to commit the crime whilst other articles referred to his bipolar disorder8+9.

Frequently old age is used as a shock factor in VAW is to suggest elderly men are less likely perpetrators of VAW as they are presented as less able than their younger peers when this is not true. Every man is capable of committing VAW therefore it is important the media does not present some men as more or less likely culprits and begins to recognise all men who commit these crimes as a danger.

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