SPEAK OUT, STAND AGAINST RAPE
As someone who is more used to writing funding bids and monitoring reports in my role at ARCH North East, my first reaction at being asked by the team to write a blog to highlight the importance of our work during the 16 days of activism was a blank stare! Where to start! What to say! There’s a knack to blogs, everyone knows that they need to be conversational and chatty in tone, write as you talk is the advice that’s given, but that’s hard when the messages you’re trying to get across are about rape and sexual violence.
ARCH is a charity with a strong voice that was set up over 21 years ago to support women and girls following their experiences of abuse. Much has evolved and changed within the service in that time, including our inclusion of support from men and boys however it remains one of our primary roles to champion the needs of Women and Girls who are so disproportionally impacted (world-wide) by male violence. Campaign’s such as the United Nations 16 Days of Activism are therefore key to helping us amplify the challenges that they face in speaking out.
This year’s theme ‘Stand Against Rape’ comes at a time when more and more survivors are coming forward to disclose their experiences, we know this only too well at ARCH, referral numbers have risen year on year in the five years that I have been with the service and the team are delivering more and more sessions of support to help continue to meet the demand. Waiting lists for services across the country are rising, yet despite this we know that due to the secret and hidden nature of sexual violence/abuse there are many more women and girls who are yet to speak out. Approximately 85,000 women and girls experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault in the UK, every single year and only around 15% of that number will make a report[i]. That’s too many people that may not be getting the support they need when they need it.
Hand on heart who can blame them though, finding the words to report can feel impossible, let alone the re-traumatisation of the experience from re-living it and then there are often misplaced feelings of guilt or shame to overcome, as we as a society give out the message that you are more likely to be blamed for a rape than believed.
Unless you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual violence and abuse it can be hard to comprehend the massive impact that it can have. It can be much easier for people to follow a logic of denial, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence that a rape culture fosters. Sadly in 2019 the idea that rape can be normalised due to societies attitudes about gender and sexuality is sadly far to prevalent and examples of victim blaming far to common place. We all need to try and understand this and do our bit to reverse this trend.
‘Every time a woman speaks up about her experience of sexual violence and she’s not believed rape culture flourishes. Every time you hear a survivor’s story Listen, Believe, and Support’[ii]
As a service we are doing our bit, during the 16 days this year our small team have worked hard to be visible within our community raising awareness of the issues, talking about the support that is available. We’ve challenged myths and stereotypes, spoken about healing and moving forward, delivered training, written blogs, campaigned and come together as a team to ‘Orange the World’ and stand up in our way for ‘Generation Equality’.
I’m incredibly proud to work with the amazing team at ARCH, we have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, at any one time they are supporting around 325 people from across the Teesside area in our advocacy service and delivering over 90+ sessions each week of specialist therapeutic support.
Like my colleagues in previous Blog posts have said, I wish for a world where no-one has to experience these horrific crimes but to make that happen, we each need to stand up and speak out. As individuals and collectively we need to challenge inequality and victim blaming as only when we achieve true equality for women and girls will their real and lived experiences of sexual violence start to change.
So, let’s end the post in the spirit of the campaign with a call to action, please join us in whatever way you can in speaking out and standing up against rape. Take the time to read up on the issues, follow ARCH on twitter or Facebook, share our posts, check out our website for more information, fundraise, volunteer with us, send us a message of support, tell your friends about us and services like us.
And as I come to the end of this piece, I can’t help but reflect that not knowing where to start with this blog wasn’t the problem, its stopping that’s the real issue when there is so much more to say.
#orangetheworld #16days # 16DaysTees #GenerationEquality #EndStigma #Speakout #Standagainstrape
Nicky Harkin is the CEO of ARCH North East, a specialist sexual violence service based in Middlesbrough delivering services across Teesside.
[ii] Quote taken from UN Women twitter account