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Anonymity as a critical enabler in tackling gender-based violence in Wales

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Anonymity as a critical enabler in tackling gender-based violence in Wales

As part of our 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign, we are lucky enough to have Crimestoppers’ Ella Rabaiotti, guest blog for us about the importance of Fearless.org in educating and empowering young people to ensure every girl has a voice against sexual abuse and violence in Wales.

Crimestoppers is the UK charity that gives people the power to speak up about crime, including all aspects of violence and abuse, 100% anonymously. In 2010, the charity launched Fearless.org to educate and empower young people to have their voice heard safely without revealing their identity.

The anonymity promise provided by Crimestoppers and Fearless is a vital enabler to overcome barriers to reporting gender-based violence. The reason behind this is the silencing that exists for victims and witnesses of violence and abuse – which is amplified for young people. Less than one fifth of children and young people who experience violent crime actually go on to report this to the police (ONS, 2014). This level of underreporting of crime is driven by a lack of awareness, fear of repercussions, self-blame, and negative perceptions of police - and is further compounded by the increase in online harms (Beckett & Warrington, 2014, 2019).

Furthermore, young people do not want to be labelled a ‘grass’ or ‘snitch’; a barrier so significant that reporting crime is often simply not an option. Indeed, in recent focus groups carried out around knife crime, not one young person said they would report crime to the police:

‘We talked about when the learners might call the police if they were the victim of crime or threatened with violence, but they could not see any situation when they would do so.’ (Nacro, 2020, p.7).

This culture of ‘not snitching’ is relevant to all types of crime, including the peer reporting of sexual harm. Indeed, schools research found consistent concerns around the fear of being labelled a ‘grass’ which underpinned ‘complacency in intervening on behalf of others’ to the extent that for some young people, they ‘would rather get into trouble themselves, than be seen as a snitch’ (Allnock & Atkinson 2019, p.15).

The work of Fearless.org helps to challenge the ‘no snitch’ youth culture and explore the moral dilemmas of giving information about crime. Fearless Outreach Workers deliver workshops to young people and the professionals who work with them across South Wales. Workshops offer the opportunity for young people to ask questions, share their concerns and allow them to dispel any myths they may have around crime and criminality. Young people are then able to make informed decisions and choices based upon new found knowledge.

As well as raising awareness of crime issues - including exploitation and violence, they encourage young people to be part of the solution by providing them with a safe alternative route to speaking up when faced with crime or criminality.

Crimestoppers are increasingly concerned about the impact of gang violence on young people and much our ‘Fearless’ efforts have sought to tackle exploitation through ‘county lines’ criminality. Boys have been a focus, seen within our Wales-made film, Running the Lines, however we know that girls are often the hidden victims in gangs.

In our commitment to tackling gender-based violence, during the next 12 months, we plan to do more to focus our efforts on the reducing the involvement of girls in gangs, by raising awareness around the risks around sexual exploitation and violence and how Fearless.org can help. Our first step is to making a new film to tell the story of ‘Sophie’ in our Running the Lines story. We would like every girl to have a voice against sexual abuse and violence in Wales. To achieve our ambitions, spreading awareness of Fearless.org anonymous service widely amongst partnerships will be key.

To find out more about the work of Fearless, visit Fearless.org or email Fearless@crimestoppers-uk.org