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Brora campaigner urges public to 'Stop the Stare' during Face Equality Week

By Niall Harkiss

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Shannon Macdonald-McLeod (30) is campaigning to 'Stop the Stare' during Face Equality Week.
Shannon Macdonald-McLeod (30) is campaigning to 'Stop the Stare' during Face Equality Week.

A CAMPAIGNER from Brora is calling upon people to be respectful and ‘Stop The Stare’ as part of a new UK-wide charity campaign during Face Equality Week.

Shannon Macdonald-McLeod (30), from Brora, has a facial birthmark covering a large part of the left side of her face and has been sharing her experiences during Face Equality Week to educate people on the impact of consciously or unconsciously staring.

The Brora native is a volunteer campaigner for Changing Faces, the UK’s leading charity for anyone with a disfigurement or visible difference, such as a scar, mark or condition on their face or body. The 'Stop the Stare' campaign was launched today alongside new research, carried out for Changing Faces by Savanta ComRes.

The research found that people with visible differences have experienced an increase in hostile behaviour when they go out in public, with a rise from a third (34%) in 2019 to over two in five (43%) in 2021.

Shannon, who now works at an Opticians, has often been faced with customers who did not make her feel comfortable.

She said: "I have had mixed experiences with tourists visiting the village from outside the area, as they have often stood and stared at me when I've been at work. Sometimes I've smiled and tried to move on and do something else, but they have still watched my every move. It's uncomfortable because it doesn't matter what you're doing, their eyes follow you and you feel under the spotlight simply because they do not know how to behave in a respectful way."

"I live in a community where everyone knows each other, and sometimes people can be very protective of me, but as this is something I have experienced a lot, I am used to handling uncomfortable situations myself.

"If someone is staring, it is undermining and does make me question if I go somewhere new, will people accept me for me. Like many people with visible differences - it depends on the day you're having."

"Children ask questions about visible differences, it's in their nature, and it's important parents let them do so to avoid behaviours like staring becoming part of their adult life.

"If you are an adult who catches yourself staring, apologise and own it. Think of how to approach it without making assumptions and don't start digging a hole if you are caught staring, as you're only going to make it more uncomfortable for the person you're staring at."

"While I can sometimes be shy, I don't let the thought of people staring stop me living my life. I usually gauge body language to see whether a person is talking to me or talking at me and seeing me as a person.

"If people understood the impact of staring as a behaviour, they may learn to think twice and appreciate the difference not doing it makes."

Heather Blake, chief executive of Changing Faces says: “We had hoped the shared experience of the Covid pandemic might promote a more understanding society, but for those with a visible difference or disfigurement, there’s actually been a marked increase in being on the receiving end of stares, comments and abuse when they go out in public.

“With limited opportunities to socialise, people shielding, and visible differences being obscured by masks and face coverings, perhaps seeing a diverse range of faces and body types hasn’t been as commonplace in the past two years. But frankly that’s no excuse, it’s simply not acceptable that people are experiencing negative behaviours, abuse and discrimination because of how they look.”

Changing Faces is the UK’s leading charity for everyone who has a scar, mark or condition that makes them look different. For advice or support see www.changingfaces.org.uk or call 0300 012 0275.

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