MORE than a third of young women surveyed in East Lothian have been sexually assaulted, according to a new report.

Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC), Women’s Aid East and Midlothian (WAEML) and YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement – released research on Tuesday that revealed East Lothian women’s experience of unhealthy relationships and sexual assault.

The report – ‘Your Vision: Support for Young Women in East Lothian’ – found that 31 per cent of survey respondents had been in a relationship with someone who was abusive or harmed them physically or emotionally.

Thirty-six per cent of those surveyed had experienced sexual assault.

Mridul Wadhwa, CEO of ERCC, said the report was “hard reading”.

She said: “There are unfortunately no surprises in the statistics of the extent of sexual violence young women experience but it is heart-breaking that many survivors feel unable to access support.

“Survivors are telling us what they need to be able to access trauma recovery support but they are also demanding that all of us work harder to tackle the inequalities in which gender-based violence thrives.

“Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre would like to see sustainable investment in the provision of services for young women and non-binary survivors in East Lothian.

“We would like for all of us who have responsibility for young people in our society to work together to challenge the societal norms in which gender-based violence thrives.”

The report examines the barriers young women in East Lothian face to get support and makes a number of recommendations on how support services can better meet their needs.

The research for the report was carried out by YWCA Scotland and the project was designed by the Young Women’s Research Collective – a group of eight young women aged 16 to 25 living in the county.

A survey ran from May to September and collected a total of 110 complete responses.

All respondents were located within East Lothian.

Of the survey respondents who had experienced either abuse or sexual assault, 41 per cent had not received support and only 12 per cent had.

Seventy-three per cent knew someone who had experienced abuse or harm within their relationship, or sexual assault.

The report found there were many barriers preventing women from accessing support, including feeling shame, stigma and fear about getting support; living in a small community and fearing being judged or recognised; accessibility of support and transport difficulties; waiting lists; and not being ready.

Julie Watson, CEO at Women’s Aid East and Midlothian, said: “Women’s Aid East and Midlothian wanted to participate in this research as we wanted to hear directly from young women; we wanted to be clearer about what they needed from services when they have been subjected to abuse within a relationship so that we could better meet their needs.

“This report’s findings aren’t so much a surprise, although the prevalence, experiences and barriers to support definitely makes difficult reading.

“I am very grateful to all the young women who participated in this research – their work has provided us with great insight – we have been reassured that we are offering the right type of support, but this research will guide us to raise awareness about the work that we do, promote our services better and make very clear to young women and girls that Women’s Aid is here for them, too.”