Angus secondary school girls are leading a pioneering project to tackle peer sexual abuse and break down barriers for those seeking support.
Brave Lassies Blether was chosen as the name of the new initiative in a message to let young local women know they have somewhere to turn to for help if they have the courage to speak out.
NSPCC Scotland and the Young Women’s Movement are delivering the support scheme in partnership with Angus Council.
And senior pupils from high schools in Forfar, Kirriemuir and Montrose have given a strong voice to the project.
They aim to raise awareness of what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.
The young women spoke at the initiative launch at Montrose Football Club.
Pupil partnership with professionals
It is an issue which is ruining lives in and outside of school, in person and online.
The young Angus women will be co-creating resources for young people to provide guidance on contacting support services, as well as a guide for professionals and support services on how to work with and support young people.
One of those involved, Ella, said: “We discussed how hard it can be for young people to reach out for help as they may not know where to seek support.
“So we wanted to change this by starting the campaign.
“We all hope this is going to go far and reach everyone.
“We are hoping to help all young people discuss issues around harassment and assault with professionals if they feel this is needed.”
Tash Reilly of NSPCC Scotland said the consequences can be far-reaching.
“Experiencing peer sexual abuse and sexual harassment can have a long-lasting and devastating impact on someone’s life,” said Tash.
“It is vital young people understand where to turn if something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable.
“We hope these resources will help young people to understand where and how they can easily access support, so they feel empowered in their relationships.
Lou Chauvin of the Young Women’s Movement believes real change requires a whole community approach.
“We are encouraging everyone to spread the messages and resources throughout Angus,” Lou said.
“Experiencing peer sexual abuse and sexual harassment can often result in young people feeling isolated or like they have no one to turn to.
“Listening to young people’s needs and powerful messages is a key aspect of raising awareness on this issue.
“We are hopeful that this is a real opportunity to make tangible change within the local community.”
Praise for pupils
The pupils’ participation was hailed by Angus children and learning convener, Councillor Lynne Devine.
“I’m incredibly proud and inspired by the young women from Forfar Academy, Webster’s High School and Montrose Academy involved in this project,” she said.
“I look forward to seeing the girls’ work shared across our secondary schools to enhance the very important current work on healthy relationships and accessing appropriate support services.”
The Brave Lassies Blether campaign is part of the Young Women Know project, set up following an investigation into sexual harassment in Scottish schools.
The 2018 YWCA investigation found almost half of students and teaching staff surveyed felt the current curriculum did not adequately cover the issue of consent.
And young people were most likely to turn to the internet or their friends for advice on sex and relationships.
In the same year, the NSPCC published a report on peer sexual abuse revealing Childline had held more than 3,000 counselling sessions across the UK about the issue.
More than 95 per cent of the contacts were aged 12 and over.
They talked about it happening in school, parks, at parties and other people’s houses, as well as online.
Other areas of Courier country have launched similar campaigns.
Brave Lassies Blether will be meeting Angus education councillors later this month to highlight the initiative.
And it will be promoted district-wide during an awareness week in February.
Young people looking for support on any of the issues mentioned can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit Childline.org.uk
Childline is there for all young people up until their 19th birthday.
If you suspect someone is in immediate danger you should call the police on 999.