Speak Out Survivors was launched in October 2018 by Shirley, Emma and Suzy. We are all survivors of childhood sexual abuse and we stand with all victims and survivors of sexual offences in Scotland, regardless of whether their experiences are recent or historic.
We are campaigning to improve access to justice for survivors, with particular regard to the outdated legal requirement for 'corroboration', which under Scots law means that only very specific types of evidence are admissible for the purposes of a criminal prosecution. The technical requirements of corroboration are difficult to meet in most cases and this prevents a significant proportion of rapes and other serious sexual offences from ever being prosecuted.
We speak out about our own experiences to help others understand how the Scottish legal system fails too many victims who report sexual offences, including the way that Scots law effectively protects offenders from prosecution, the low rate of convictions, and how often sentencing fails to reflect the fact that these are serious crimes which often have life-changing consequences for the victim. We engage with politicians of all parties, members of the legal establishment and a number of other organisations to promote the interests of victims and survivors and to raise awareness of the need for reform.
Check out this great video
This short film was made by Suzy about her personal experience of abuse, of reporting to the police, and of the process of healing and being able to channel her energy into positive projects.
We began our campaign with two key aims: Firstly, to raise awareness of how the law in Scotland fails the vast majority of victims of serious sexual offences by making it extremely difficult to prosecute sex offenders; and secondly, to try to speak on behalf of those survivors who are unable to speak for themselves.
Since we launched our campaign in 2018 we’ve been contacted by many other survivors who want to share their experiences with us, and to offer their support. As a result we’ve heard stories from all over Scotland and from people of all ages and backgrounds, and it has really brought home to us how common the experiences of rape, sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse truly are.
When we talk about the number of victims of sexual offences we tend to forget that those who report their experiences are just a small proportion of those affected. It’s estimated that only 16.8% of victims make the decision to go to the police following a rape or sexual assault, and this means that the scale of the problem is vastly under reported. 2,255 reports of rape were made to Police Scotland in 2017/2018. If that represents just 16.8% of all the people who experienced rape last year then the true number of victims is closer to 13,500.
(*Sources shown below)
We know from our own experiences, and from others who have shared their experiences with us, that these crimes often have a lifelong impact upon victims. It’s also a difficult subject to talk about and victims can feel responsible for what happened or fear that they will be blamed, which means that they are more likely to keep it a secret or to disclose only to a trusted friend or family member. This makes it even easier for offenders to escape consequence or prosecution for their actions.
At Speak Out Survivors we stand in solidarity with all survivors, regardless of whether their experiences are recent or historic, whether they are young or old or male or female, whether the offender was a stranger or someone known to them or someone responsible for their care, and whether the offence was reported or not.
The #HearMyVoice project, which we will be launching on October 10th 2019, is intended to give more victims and survivors the opportunity to be heard, and to try to illustrate the scale of the problem. It’s an audio project that will be made up entirely of the voices of survivors, speaking their name and the age they were when an offence took place or when a period of abuse began, and we will be able to add to it over time to effectively create an archive of victims’ voices. It is open to all victims and survivors of sexual offences in Scotland.
It’s really easy to make your contribution – just make a recording using your phone, speaking your name and the age you were at the time of the offence, and then use the ‘share’ option to send the recording by email to: email@example.com. We will then reply to confirm that we’ve received it and we’ll send you a consent form, and once you’ve sent that back to us then we’ll add your voice to the project. If you aren’t comfortable using your full name or you don’t want to be identified, it’s fine to just use your first name or your surname.
By taking part, each survivor’s voice adds to the call for change: We want to see a greater understanding of the scale of the problem, and a recognition that the criminal justice system is failing to respond appropriately in the vast majority of cases. We hope that the end result will offer a clear illustration of how widespread these experiences are, and how they can, and do, happen to anyone, no matter how old you are or where you come from.
Every single voice matters, and every single victim and survivor deserves the opportunity for their voice to be heard.
*Please note that if you have reported an offence to the police and there is an ongoing investigation, there is a risk that using your full name may jeopardise any decision to prosecute the offender. We therefore recommend that you use only your first name or another family name to ensure that you cannot be identified.