Falkirk women turned town orange to highlight issue of gender-based violence

Women across the district united to back an initiative aimed at highlighting the issue of gender-based violence.

Members of Soroptimists International Falkirk tied orange ribbons to lampposts in the town centre as part of the 16-day United Nations campaign.

Meanwhile, Falkirk East MSP Michelle Thomson, speaking in a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the issue said “too little has changed” since she first spoke publicly about being raped at the age of 14.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day.

Fiona Richardson, president of Soroptimists International Falkirk ties an orange ribbon to one of the town centre lampposts.

This year’s theme is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!” and to show their support members of SI Falkirk covered town centre lampposts with orange ribbons.

On Saturday evening both the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel were also lit up orange in recognition of the campaign.

A spokeswoman for SI Falkirk said: “Soroptimist International Falkirk have supported this project for some years, and aim to raise the profile of this issue. Equality is to be encouraged and supported and this includes equality in the workplace, in the home, in education, indeed in all areas of life.

Soroptimist International Falkirk have Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel illuminated to coincide with the United Nations Global Campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender based Violence. Picture Michael Gillen

“It has been recognised that incidences of domestic violence have increased during the pandemic, and raising the profile of this is one way of supporting those in such a situation. As Soroptimist International support women and girls globally in order to educate, enable and empower them, this campaign is definitely linked to those aims.”

In an emotive speech in Holyrood during a debate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Mrs Thomson said that after she revealed details of her rape she received praise and support but also abuse, mainly from men.

The SNP MSP is now calling on men to step up to the plate, adding: “We need a massive change in our culture. Good men: that majority of decent loving caring men I know exist have a critical role in helping effect the changes we so desperately need.”

In 2016, while an MP, Ms Thomson gave a speech in the House of Commons revealing that, 37 years previously, she had been attacked in a wooded area by someone she knew.

Soroptimists International Falkirk tying orange ribbons to lampposts to mark United Nations Global Campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender based Violence. Picture: Michael Gillen

She later contacted the police, and Ms Thomson now says the perpetrator was identified and charged but not prosecuted due to the passage of time.

During last week’s Holyrood debate, she said: “In 2016, then an MP, I spoke in the House of Commons about being raped at the age of 14.

“Too little has changed.

“In the immediate aftermath I received thousands of cards, letters, and emails. Simultaneously, I received extensive abuse on social media, almost always from men.

“Making a police report was difficult. I learned why some facets of my adult character were as they were.”

She added: “When I described my varied career to Police Scotland, they explained to me that my workaholic habits were entirely understandable.

“When someone like me starts running, they keep running. For many women, however, it is into the arms of an abusive partner, drugs, or drink.”

The MSP said: “Disclosure was me finally standing my ground. I was naked from the inside out and all I had was my small internal voice that whispered, ‘hear me’.”

United Nations statistics show that almost one in three woman have been subjected to either violence from an intimate partner, generalised sexual violence, or experienced both at least once in their life.

Yet fewer than 40 per cent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort such are the taboos of speaking out.

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