Guest post: Rape Crisis - "we must name rape in order to challenge it"
It's Giving Week at MNHQ, and we're going to be hearing from each of the five charities chosen by you. Today, it's the turn of Rape Crisis, which helps support women and girls who have suffered sexual violence. Do give what you can, and Mumsnet will match your donations to a total of £25,000.
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Posted on: Fri 12-Jun-15 09:57:14
(11 comments )
Jane first came to Rape Crisis at the age of 72. Jane had been raped and sexually abused by several different perpetrators from the age of 6 until she was 61. She’d been abused in her childhood family home, a state children’s home, her workplace and her marital home. The perpetrators were people she had trusted and loved, people responsible for her care, and the settings were places where she should have felt safe, confident and happy.
Despite this, Jane felt guilty. She had a very low sense of self-worth and she had socially isolated herself out of shame and fear. Her coping mechanisms included anorexia and self-harming, she suffered terrible flashbacks and agoraphobia, and she had tried to kill herself a number of times.
After 58 counselling sessions at a Rape Crisis centre, Jane handed a letter to her counsellor: ‘I know I will never fully feel like the abuse wasn’t my fault but I know now that this is my irrational belief. I have never known a life without abuse nor one in which I was ever loved or even felt safe….but over the last year I’ve begun to love the little girl in me.’
Jane is one of the 52,000 women and girls that receive specialist, independent support and advocacy services from our Rape Crisis member organisations across England and Wales every year. We also listen and speak to another 160,000 survivors annually over our confidential telephone helplines, and by text and email.
Many, like Jane, have experienced more than one kind of sexual violence, inflicted by more than one perpetrator, often over a long period of time. The vast majority have known their perpetrators before the abuse took place; some have been attacked by a stranger, of course, but many more have been raped by a partner, ex, colleague, friend, family member, parent, client. Most have waited some time, often years, sometimes decades, before seeking out our support. The majority have chosen not to report to the police.
When we talk about a woman being ‘attacked' or a child being ‘abused', often we're using these more palatable phrases to refer to rape, and for whose benefit? The hundreds of thousands of rape survivors among us don't have the luxury of hiding from the realities of rape, so why should anyone?
Many of the women and girls we work with have not been raped or don’t identify their experience as rape; some have been sexually assaulted in other ways, many have been sexually abused as children, which may or may not have included rape. Some have experienced rape that doesn’t fall into the narrow legal definition; for example, they’ve been sexually assaulted with an object or by a woman. Most have experienced a range of long-term, often devastating impacts as a result of the trauma of sexual violence; they might have physical and mental health problems, difficulty sleeping or eating, drug and alcohol dependencies, issues around trust and relationships, low self-esteem that in turn might have affected their education or work. At the same time, many would not consider themselves to be in ‘crisis’.
But none of these things matter when it comes to accessing the women-only safe spaces, the non-judgemental support and advocacy delivered by specially-trained fellow women workers and volunteers that Rape Crisis offers. We listen and are led by the women and girls we work with, using their own language to support them in processing their experiences, understanding that it was not their fault, making decisions that are right for them and moving forward positively with their lives in whatever way feels best.
So why do we call our movement ‘Rape Crisis’ at all? Well, partly, of course, because many of the survivors we work with have been raped, yet even today, and even more so 40 years ago when we started, rape was not a word widely used or heard. And we believe it is important to name rape; when we talk about a woman being ‘attacked’ or a child being ‘abused’, often we’re using these more palatable phrases to refer to rape, and for whose benefit? The hundreds of thousands of rape survivors among us don’t have the luxury of hiding from the realities of rape, so why should anyone? How will that help us challenge and end it? Undoubtedly too, many of the women and girls we work with are in crisis, and the support they get from us, many say has quite literally saved their lives.
But perhaps ‘crisis’ refers to something else too. With the Department of Health estimating that as many people suffer the after-effects of sexual violence in this country as suffer with diabetes, why does every woman and girl not have access to a Rape Crisis centre, or every male sexual violence survivor access to specialist services? This is a crisis that Rape Crisis England and Wales seeks to address daily, through our work with Rape Crisis centres and through our national awareness-raising, and this is the Crisis that friends like those at Mumsnet are helping us to tackle with their invaluable support.
By Katie Russell
Thanks for all your work. I have donated.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Rape seems to be a word more often used in jest than when talking about sexual violence. It is so wrong but so much more palatable for the men who don't want to believe their brother/dad/best friend might be a rapist. Thank you for your work.
I can't ever donate enough. You are a life changing organisation.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
Amazing organisation and work that you do. I too have donated.
Hope you smash your target, it's such important work, and (unfortunately) much needed.
I am one of those whose life was changed by counselling through Rape Crisis.
Very moving guest post and such a worthy cause.
Amazing work and I'm so sorry for all those who have suffered so terribly.
I hope Rape Crisis receives a huge number of donations.
In our society rape seems to be a taboo subject like miscarriage or death.
I agree we as a society need to be able to talk about these things openly and perhaps when we do it might enable victims to not feel ashamed or guilty, no one would feel this way if they were hit by a car or mugged would they.
I think it is the worst crime there is and my heart goes out to all the men and women who have suffered.
Your service is invaluable and I hope you gain the funding to be there for all in need but even more so I hope through education we can reduce this crime and make those suffering feel empowered to come forward to get help sooner.
Bump. About 11 and a half hours left to donate.
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