Violence Against Women and Girls: Your Stories

Closed 16 Oct 2022

Opened 11 Jul 2022

Feedback updated 4 Apr 2023

We asked

Between July and October 2022 we ran our ‘Violence against Women and Girls: Your Stories’ public engagement activities. This storytelling space was intended for survivors to share their stories about their own lived experiences which would help us shape our new strategy on Violence against Women and Girls. 

The purpose of the engagement was to understand survivor stories from people who have experienced or witnessed violence. Survivors could provide as little or as much information as they felt comfortable sharing, including their own journey, their interactions with the police, and the impact. It also aimed to help us identify user needs, barriers to reporting, and establish what women and girls need from Police Scotland; ensuring that our services are fit for purpose.

We also held a number of focus groups and interviews with a range of individuals and organisations, including women’s support organisations, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and Scottish Women’s Autism Network. We commissioned Dundee and Angus Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre to facilitate conversation cafés with men and boys.

A first for Police Scotland, we hosted an online ‘Ideas for Change’ space. This invited the public to share ideas about what Police Scotland can do within and with Scotland's communities to end violence against women and girls.

Taken together, all of our engagement activities aimed to ensure we had a good understanding of many experiences from different perspectives. 

All of this was done with the aim of developing a strategy that supports what we do, and how we do it, alongside our partners across sectors, to help improve the safety and wellbeing of people, places and communities in Scotland. The strategy is informed by our values, ethics, and service standards, and also by the understanding of lived and living experiences.

You said

In total, we received 135 responses on our storytelling public engagement (95% were from women). All participants had experienced, witnessed, or provided support to people who had experienced violence against women and girls.

Responses cited a range of different experiences, demonstrated within our key findings:

  • Experience of violence included sexual violence (34%), domestic abuse (26%), harassment (22%), physical violence (8%), stalking (4%), and cyber abuse (2%). Perpetrators included partners, family members, strangers and colleagues.
  • For most participants, violence took place in their own home (35%), followed by in the street (15%) and at work (13%).
  • Around 4 in 10 of the storytelling participants (43%) reported what happened to them to the police. 
  • From storytelling response analysis, survivors were more likely to report a partner (54%) compared to a family member (37%) or stranger (34%). Emotional abuse was the highest unreported crime type among storytelling participants and was generally not reported until there was physical violence (did not report emotional abuse – 80%, did not report domestic abuse – 33%).
  • Reasons for not reporting included the perception of the law, how they might be treated by police, the repercussions of reporting, and the involvement of and impact on children.
  • How officers showed up when engaging with survivors was as important as the outcome in making survivors feel listened to, respected and safe. Interactions with police greatly impacted recovery and confidence to report and engage with police in future.
  • For some people, the process of making a report to police and the experience of a court process has negative impacts on their mental health.
  • Some storytelling participants shared that the reporting process and then journey through the criminal justice system can be difficult. For example, making a report to the police can be challenging having to re-live experiences.

We facilitated 12 interviews and four focus groups, with 30 participants in total; including Scottish Women’s Aid employees, Ethnic Minority women and women with Autism.

Participants highlighted different interactions with police and shared their experience of the reporting process and the impacts of violence against women and girls. The need for a more effective reporting process, training for trauma informed practice, and survivor focused support from the police was emphasised by both interview and focus group participants.

Our ‘Ideas for Change’ platform received 32 ideas with 16 additional comments in support of or providing feedback on ideas. Ideas included reporting crime, education, police training, support services, further research, and the use of technology to improve survivor experiences.

We did

What we heard from all of our engagement activities has enhanced our understanding of violence against women and girls, and has shaped the development of our strategy. Some things have already changed as a result of what we heard, such as the way we provide interpretation services for people who use British Sign Language.

Police Scotland will take on board the recommendations received in the engagement to improve the service we provide to the public. The following areas have been reviewed and have shaped what you will see in the final version of our Violence against Women and Girls Strategy.

Inclusion and Accessibility

  • Accessibility of information and support, particularly for seldom-heard communities and non-English speakers.
  • Accessibility of reporting processes, including the use of technology for safe and discreet reporting and evidence sharing.
  • Improving ease of contact for reaching specific officers who are involved in cases.


  • Understanding and addressing the causes of violence against women and girls and misogyny.
  • Perpetrator focused and evidence-led campaigns.
  • Treating reports made once survivors have left situation just as seriously as an ongoing incident would be treated, due to the high levels of vulnerability and risk upon leaving.
  • Working with partners and other support services to manage threat, risk and harm, and provide an appropriate response based on an individual's needs.

Learning and Development

  • Refresh training and education resources for police officers and staff, enhancing reflective practice and on applying trauma-informed approaches.
  • Diversity training to increase understanding of different communities and cultures, including how so called ‘honour-based’ violence and coercive control may present differently.
  • Specific domestic abuse officers in response policing that are trained and can provide effective support.
  • Build a greater understanding of how the LGBTI community in Scotland is affected by violence, such as domestic abuse within same sex relationships and impacts for transgender people.

Community Engagement

  • Keeping public and communities engaged and involved in change through meaningful approaches.
  • Public engagement to explain processes of reporting violence against women and girls, to raise awareness of the next steps should someone choose to report. Share examples of positive outcomes.
  • School and youth engagement to raise awareness and understanding with young people about violence against women and girls.
  • Improving communication and transparency on role and accessibility of police, and support services. Using different ways to improve reach to seldom-heard communities (e.g. information at medical centres, airports etc.)

Thank you

We are grateful to everyone who participated in our engagement activities during 2022.

What you shared was powerful and we are treating this subject very seriously. Our Research and Insight team worked closely with our Strategy and Planning team to collaborate and ensure that our public insights were reflected as the strategy was developed. We hope you can see where your participation has made a difference.

We are committed to a Scotland free from violence against women and girls and we are working hard to demonstrate that your police service is there when you need us.

Our officers and staff will act professionally at all times, treating you with integrity, fairness and respect and we will always respect and protect your human rights. We will take all concerns and complaints where this has not been the case seriously.

We are promoting a learning and improvement culture - supporting our people to provide the best possible policing responses within and for our diverse communities.  

Results updated 4 Apr 2023

A British Sign Language version of our We Asked, You Said, We Did feedback is below.



At Police Scotland we are committed to listening to the experiences of our communities. We are developing a Violence against Women and Girls Strategy that will be informed by our values, ethics and service standards, and by understanding lived and living experience.

The Scottish Government's 'Equally Safe' strategy sets out a vision for Scotland. Our own strategy will support what we do, and how we do it, alongside our partners in all sectors, to help achieve this vision for Scotland.

Violence against women and girls encompasses (but is not limited to):

  • physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family (including children and young people), within the general community or in institutions, including domestic abuse, rape, and incest;
  • sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation in any public or private space, including work;
  • commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution, lap dancing, stripping, pornography and trafficking;
  • child sexual abuse, including familial sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and online abuse;
  • so called 'honour based' violence, including dowry related violence, female genital mutilation, forced and child marriages, and 'honour' crimes.

We are aware of the importance of understanding intersectionality between gender and other characteristics. We are not seeking to exclude men, but we recognise that women and girls are disproportionately affected by particular forms of violence that they experience because they are women and girls. Many men and boys are victims of violence and abuse. We condemn all forms of violence and abuse, whilst recognising that particular forms of violence are disproportionately experienced by one gender and require a strong strategic focus. Men have a critical role in challenging violence, breaking down gender norms and in helping to ensure greater gender equality in society – they are also entitled to support when they experience violence and abuse (Equally Safe, Scottish Government, 2018).

If you are aged 16 or above, we want to hear about your experiences of violence directed towards women and girls. This activity is about helping us to understand your experiences. We have provided prompts for you as they may help you share your story. You can include as much or as little information as you feel comfortable. You do not have to complete every box. 

The anonymised findings from this and other engagement activity we are leading will be used to inform our Violence against Women and Girls Strategy.

Reporting a crime or providing information about an incident

Please note that this platform is not for reporting crime, providing information about an incident, or asking us for help. No information you provide will be added to crime reporting systems and we cannot follow-up on anything you tell us here as it is anonymous.

If you would like to report a crime or to contact the police, please visit our website or call us on 101. If you or someone else needs urgent police assistance, please dial 999 immediately.

Support information

If you feel that you need emotional support, please contact:

Your information

Participating is optional and all information you provide will be completely anonymous. We want to make sure you understand what this means: 

  • Please don't tell us anything that will identify you or someone else in your response. If anyone is named in any response this information will be deleted. 
  • This activity is not for reporting crime or sharing any concerns about your own or someone else's safety. If you'd like to share information with police, please contact us in another way.
  • This platform does not collect any information about you or the device that you are using right now (for example, your 'IP address') so we cannot follow-up with you or answer any questions.

Police Scotland will store all anonymous data securely and in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. Your data rights will not be affected by participation. By clicking the link below, you agree to take part in this activity and give your consent for your responses to be handled by Police Scotland and our partners in the public sector for the purposes outlined.

If you have any questions, please contact the Insight and Engagement team using the contact details on this page.

Take part in a different way

British Sign Language (BSL) translations are integrated throughout all pages of this activity. You can download an easy read version of this activity in the 'Related' section below.

Please let us know if you want to complete this activity in a different way (for example, over the phone, or if you require it in another language to be able to take part):

Ideas for change

We are also running our 'Ideas for change' space. You may wish to explore this activity and add your ideas for the future, or comment on other's ideas, in addition to submitting your story.

British Sign Language (BSL) translation

What happens next

Thank you to everyone who participated in this activity. 

Your feedback and views will be analysed and used to inform the development of our strategy and the decisions we make, internally and with our partners. We are committed to ensuring that we provide the quality service that Scotland's diverse communities expect and deserve. 


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