VIOLENCE against women campaigners plan to work closely with the Scottish media in a bid to change the way women are represented and help dispel dangerously unhelpful myths.

Women’s charities got behind the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards 2015, which attracted the highest number of nominations from the public since its inception three years ago, and the awards ceremony at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday night was the biggest yet.

More than 100 journalists, women’s sector workers and charities came together to recognise good journalism and to celebrate the achievements made in the media over the past year.

Liz Ely, development officer of Zero Tolerance, organisers of the event, said: “Our mission is to prevent violence against women by changing policy, practice and ultimately attitudes.

“When these awards were founded we saw them as a tool to encourage good writing by recognising it publicly, as well as allowing the women’s sector to engage with the press in a critical but constructive way.

“We wanted to see more insightful, accurate writing, and fewer of those regrettable pieces which support rather than challenge the structures which allow men’s violence against women to continue.

“The evidence from the massive increase in submissions for each category suggests that this may be starting to happen.

“That’s not to say that some poor practice doesn’t persist. Too often headlines are sensationalist or misleading, using shock value or titillation to grab the reader’s attention.”

The awards were supported by The National as media partner, NUJ Scotland, White Ribbon Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Everyday Victim Blaming, Women 5050, Rape Crisis Scotland, Women for Independence, and former Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale gave impressive and inspirational speeches to the audience pledging their further commitment to raising awareness of women’s issues and tackling violence against women.

The winners in the five categories for newspaper articles and blogs were The Observer’s writer Alex Renton, the Sunday Herald’s Judith Duffy, Edinburgh Evening News journalist Gina Davidson, and bloggers Isabelle Kerr and student Eve Livingston.

Blogger and mother Kirsty Strickland was awarded a bursary by the Write to End Violence Against Women campaign and has written a serious of insightful articles in The National over the past four months.

However, this year’s Wooden Spoon award did not go to a particular article, but instead to a number of newspapers for their “shocking” headlines including the Scottish Sun’s front page "Tartan Barmy", with a mocked-up sexist image of the First Minister in a skimpy tartan outfit in a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball pose.


Alex Renton, winner of the Best Article – Comment and Features category for his investigative piece in The Observer titled “Rape, child abuse and Prince Charles’s former school”.

I’M so pleased and proud to get a prize in these excellent awards – particularly because my 11-year-old daughter Lulu came along to Holyrood to see me get my hands on the glassware.

It’s good that she knows Scotland will not tolerate violence against women and children – and that her dad’s job, often pretty silly-looking, can be part of that task.

Our long investigation of child rape and other crimes at Gordonstoun School in Moray was motivated by two things. One was the need to show that the flaws in protection systems for the vulnerable occur at all levels of society: in “great” public schools as well as in care homes. So does the culture of complacency and cover-up.

The other was to point up how terribly the Scottish legal system lets down survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Scottish advocates will tell you that we have the best legal system in the world; but it is plain to victims of rape or of violence in the home that, for them, our system is one of the worst.

Isabelle Kerr, winner of Best Blog for Fifty Shades of Grey – Saviour of Relationships or Abuser’s Handbook?

ON Thursday it was my 60th birthday, so receiving this award was a lovely present.

Turning 60 made me think about the ways I’d been writing and putting out information over the years, since the beginning of the 1980s in fact.

Blogging is a great way to communicate and so widely available to all of us.

There are many people out there contributing pieces on all aspects of violence against women and it’s growing, so that the voices of survivors of gender-based violence and abuse, and those of us who work in this field, need not be silenced any longer.

The online world is so often seen as the domain of the vicious, vitriolic troll and that is exactly why we must keep shouting out our message, that violence against women is not acceptable and must end.

I was very lucky to be in the company of other writers who had also been honoured with awards for their excellent articles and investigative pieces, and it was a good feeling to know that the torch is burning brightly and survivors of abuse will not be silenced or consigned to the darkness.

Eve Livingston, winner of Best Student Blog for her personal blog On Rape Culture

I’M delighted to have won this award and I’m very grateful to the organisers and judges who make this important event happen every year.

This is an honour that’s made even more special by the fact that, at the inaugural Write to End VAW Awards in 2012, I was lucky enough to win the first ever Best Blog prize.

That blog was about Reeva Steenkamp and the media’s treatment of her after her death at the hands of a man. Last week, almost exactly three years later, that man was finally convicted of her murder.

That it took so long for her killer to be brought to justice shows just how easily rape culture permeates structures as fundamental as criminal justice. But that doesn’t happen on its own, and that those three years have been filled with media discussion of the case ranging from victim-blaming to the idolisation of a murderer shows how reliant such a culture is on dominant narratives which excuse and minimise male violence against women.

That’s why writing is a crucial form of activism; it raises important voices to a rape culture whose enduring popularity relies on rhetoric. It allows us to present counter-narratives to those which bolster structural inequality.

Writing to end violence against women shouldn’t be necessary. But as long as it is, I am proud to play a part.

JUDITH Duffy, winner of Best Article – News for her Sunday Herald piece on street harassment.

I WAS delighted to win the award for best news article at this year’s Write to End Violence Awards, which had so many fantastic entries in all categories.

My article published in the Sunday Herald – ‘Scottish women taking on the sexist curse of street harassment’ – was written in the wake of the case of Poppy Smart, a young woman who went to the police after being plagued by wolf-whistling and sexist comments from builders every day.

The article uncovered some shocking statistics about the levels of sexual harassment experienced by women in the street and highlighted the work being done by movements like Hollaback, which encourages women to share their experiences of unwelcome jeers and obscenities.

Too often this issue is dismissed as harmless banter or wolf-whistling – yet it is something which impacts on everyday lives. Many women will have experienced that feeling of dread walking past a building site on their own.

As one of the Hollaback campaigners noted, 10 years ago street harassment wasn’t even a term, just something that happened. It is mainly thanks to the efforts of women like Poppy Smart that attitudes are beginning to change.

GINA Davidson, winner of the Gender Equality in Political Reporting Award for her “Let’s hear it for the smart girls” article published in the Edinburgh Evening News.

BACK in 1992 when the Zero Tolerance campaign launched in Edinburgh and was considered controversial for putting the issue of domestic abuse on the flagpoles of Princes Street and on the sides of Lothian buses, I was just starting out on my career in journalism.

Covering “women’s issues” wasn’t even a consideration – I just wanted to tell people’s stories and uncover wrongs in society; to get an exclusive.

It turns out that the stories which I’ve told, the wrongs which I’ve “uncovered” have too often involved women – too many women – who have suffered domestic assault, violence, rape and other physical and mental abuses.

You run campaigns for organisations like Women’s Aid, you write editorials welcoming new policies in tackling domestic abuse, you search for ever more powerful testimony from women whose lives are shattered, and yet you can be left wondering if any of it has impact.

That’s why the Write to End Violence Against Women awards are important. They are a recognition that newspaper journalists are trying to get to the heart of an issue which shames Scotland – as well as being a conscience to a media which can still be inherently sexist.

The National View: Write to End Violence Against Women awards pose an important challenge to media sexism