Pupils from Dalmilling and Newton Primary Schools pass the ball with Ayr United’s Nicky Devlin and Michael Donald
Pupils from South Ayrshire and players from Ayr United have been spreading the word about the potential dangers of online and physical abuse. Eight pupils shared their experience at an event which took place at County Buildings in Ayr as part of UK National Stalking Awareness Day 2016 (Friday 22 April).
The event took place in the same week as pop star Lily Allen came out publicly to say that investigations into her own stalking ordeal, which began online, made her feel more like a "nuisance rather than a victim". Alex Gray (30) from Perth was convicted of burglary and harassment at Harrow Crown Court earlier this month.
To raise awareness of the scale of the problem 130 primary seven pupils from Annbank, Coylton, Dalmilling and Newton took part in the 'Pass the Ball' pilot project. The partnership with Ayr United brings first team players including Captain, Nicky Devlin, into schools to highlight the importance of team work. The sessions have been backed up by sessions on internet safety and respect from Police Scotland and South Ayrshire Women's Aid.
Rachael (11), said, "Through the project, I learned that you should always keep your head up. This helps keep you safe when you are playing sport and also online. In other words, you need to be aware of who you are online with."
Eileen Howat, Chief Executive, South Ayrshire Council, said, "These young people have really got to grips with the issue at hand and their confidence in helping to raise awareness on this important issue is an example to all of us.
"While celebrity cases may help to shine a light on the potential risks of stalking we're all at risk of online and physical abuse with some people choosing to use anonymity to overstep acceptable boundaries.
"Targeted education through programmes like these will help to identify inappropriate and dangerous behaviour and make people think twice about their actions."
Ann Moulds founder and chair of the Scottish National Stalking Group, said, "High profile cases such as Lily Allen's highlight the deep personal impact that stalking can have.
"Recent research from the UK Criminal Justice Survey suggests that 1 in 6 men and women experienced have experienced stalking in the last 12 months, meaning this is an issue which is already a massive problem.
"Raising awareness in schools and local communities needs to be part of the solution, with young people at the heart of implementing change."
Using football training as the medium to bring young children together the project aims to deliver a positive message about the importance of developing respectful relationships while at the same time enforcing a healthy and active message.