Paula Dunn says there is no regard to how pornographic images might affect the developing minds of young people
Intimate partner violence is common amongst a lot of women who attend Glasgow Rape Crisis centre for support, and young women are no exception. One of the issues which is raised repeatedly is pornography.
Their boyfriend watches it, encourages them to watch it, coerces them in to copying what they see and in some cases forces them to re-enact what is happening in pornographic material.
Young women tell us they feel traumatised by what has happened but because they ‘agreed’ to the sexual contact they feel they don’t deserve support. It takes a lot of time to build up trust to get the young women to understand the nature of coercion and how this differs to consent or ‘free agreement’ (Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009). Survivors of sexual violence experience self blame, guilt and shame which results in many young women feeling isolated, frightened, angry and confused.
Lads’ mags also have an impact on young people and teen relationships. Many young women we support or who have attended our workshops experience low self esteem because their boyfriend wants them to look like the women in these magazines.
Young men we speak to in our workshops tell us they feel pressure as well from images in magazines and are worried about being bullied if they do not conform to what society deems is normal and what ‘makes you a man’. We live in a pornified society, saturated with sexually explicit images with no regard to how these images might affect the developing minds of young people.
Their boyfriend watches pornography, encourages them to watch it, coerces them in to copying what they see and in some cases forces them to re-enact what is happening
Pornography is not the only issue affecting young people and relationships. A lot of the young people attending our centre/workshops tell us that abusive comments have been written about them on social media, seemingly with no real consequences for the perpetrators.
Some of these people are anonymous but others are people in their school or where they live. We live in a digital age where young people connect and stay in touch through social networking sites. Young people affected by sexual bullying shouldn’t be expected to cut themselves off and disconnect from their friends and wider social circle.
The pressure that young people are under to conform and alter their behaviour is enormous. We find that young people are open to hearing about alternatives because, all too often, they don’t feel as though they have any other choices.
The Rosey Project is Glasgow Rape Crisis centre’s support and prevention service for young people. The project is comprised of a support service for young women between the ages of 13 and 17 years old and a prevention programme where we deliver sexual violence awareness raising workshops to boys and girls. The workshops are based around some of the issues that are most affecting the young people we work with.
At the Rosey Project we believe a national educational initiative is needed to tell people about their alternatives. Young people need to know what their rights are and that it’s ok to ‘say no’.
Paula Dunn, is prevention and development worker for the Rosey Project at Glasgow Rape Crisis. For more information contact: Glasgow Rape Crisis, 5th Floor, 30 Bell Street, Glasgow G1 1LG, call: 0141 552 3201, email: [email protected].
This blog originally appeared on YouthLink Scotland's blog site.