When I was asked to write a blog for ARCH to begin the UN’s call for 16 days of activism to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls – first thought was panic and like what can I write about? I thought I know; I’ll tell everyone how lucky I feel to be working for such an amazing charity supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse across Teesside. I think it’s important to say that here at ARCH we support both male and females and recognise that although this crime is perpetrated against both sexes, the vast majority of victims are women and girls.
But then the word lucky just didn’t seem right when talking about my work and I felt some guilt for using it. But you know, I do feel fortunate that I can get to help people through something some of us can only imagine in our worst nightmares. I am always amazed and truly inspired by the people who define our work at ARCH – the many victims and survivors.
I guess I am one of those rare creatures who has experience of working with victims and survivors of domestic violence and later in my career, sexual violence and abuse. There is an assumption that both of these crimes are similar but please take it from me, they are not. Sure, both have a devastating impact but I have learned that victims and survivors from either must be supported in very different ways.
‘Orange the World’ is highlighting the global devastation of gender-based rape and sexual violence against women and girls. Sadly, evidence shows that most perpetrators of rape go unreported or unpunished. And let’s not be too smug about this because here, yes here in Teesside we see too many victims and survivors overwhelmingly blamed and often not believed. This is shifting thanks to the courage and determination of people coming forward and I hope they can get the help they need from services like ARCH.
Around the world and here in Teesside, we must stop people using language that blames victims, objectifies women and normalises sexual harassment. Every time a woman and girl speak up about her experience of sexual violence and she’s not believed, the prevailing rape culture thrives in any society. I am proud that ARCH will always listen to victims and survivors, validate their experience and offer the advice and support they need.
Its nearly December and many of us are planning parties, spending money we don’t have shopping for special gifts and working out how to fit as many family members as we can around a table to enjoy that special dinner. If like me you complain about all the fuss, remember Christmas for many brings back cozy feelings of love and family but for others, those memories are not as pleasant, often traumatic and very very difficult to cope with. We want people to know that no matter when or where the sexual violence or abuse happened there is a safe place where you can talk about what happened to you and you won’t be judged, will always be believed and that place is ARCH.
To finish, I thought I might share with you that my favourite panto has always been Aladdin, with the magic Genie and his three wishes, wouldn’t we all want to find that lamp! I will leave this blog sharing one wish with you, that my job or ARCH wouldn’t be needed because sexual violence and abuse just didn’t happen. Imagine, no more victims of this cruel and devastating crime. A wish I hope we all want to come true, one day soon.
The other 2 wishes involve lots and lots of money which I’d share with everyone reading this blog……honestly!
Mel Metcalf has worked at ARCH for 3 years and is a qualified Independent Sexual Violence Advisor, Independent Domestic Violence Advisor and Young Peoples Advisor.