Please contribute towards a free resource to support survivors of rape

I recently met an amazing woman, Nina Burrowes, a woman with eye-watering research and psychology credentials and a passion for helping survivors of violence.

She is fundraising to create a free e-book that will support women who have experienced rape.  The e-book will illustrate the courage and vulnerability of women survivors of rape she interviewed while conducting research on behalf of the Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service.

Women’s services are grossly underfunded and when survivors reach out for help, some can have to wait up to one year before receiving support due to lack of human and financial resources.  That’s why this e-book is so important.  Women will have instant access to shared experiences of survival, giving them support in the interim.

For £10 you will be a named contributor in the book.

The donation page:
The reason she is doing the research:
The research report the e-book will be based on:

 

The Unspeakable Crime: Rape – a reflection on women’s liberation

Just finished watching The Unspeakable Crime: Rape on BBC1. I can’t tell you how angry it made me feel. It really hit home just how false the idea of women’s liberation is. If women truly were liberated, they’d be able to go where they want, do what they want and wear what they want without fear of retribution or violence. And when they experienced violence, they’d be able to report it to the police without fearing they would not be believed, would be blamed for their actions or somehow be held to account for the violence against them. Sadly this is not the case.

The Unspeakable Crime: Rape BBC1 4 June 2235 broadcast

According to statistics issued by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics in January this year almost 100,000 women are raped each year; just 6% of women who report their perpetrators to the police will see their perpetrators get a conviction court. The reasons women do not report are many and complex. But myths around what rape is, what victims look like and assumptions around typical victim behaviour definitely come into play. A victim can be a sex worker, a woman who is drunk, a daughter, a sister, a wife and mother. Perpetrators can be colleagues, husbands, boyfriends, ex-partners, friends and family members. Contrary to popular belief a woman or girl is far more likely to be assaulted by a man she knows than a man she doesn’t.

Perhaps one of the most harmful myths is the prevalence of false reports of rape. A report released in March this year by the crown prosecution service, that followed allegations of rape over a 17 month period between 2011 and 2012, found there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and just 35 prosecutions for making a false allegation of rape over the same period (equivalent to less than 1 per cent if you combine the numbers).  There are false reports of each and every type of crime but the general assumption that there are higher numbers of false reports of rape is exceptionally harmful. It makes survivors of sexual assault fear they will not be believed, deterring them from reporting the violence they have experienced. This, in turn, provides a safety net for the men who perpetrate sexual violence against women: where is the incentive to stop hurting women if there are no legal or other consequences for doing so?

So how do we overcome the problem? We need to take a look at how society, politicians, the judicial process etc, and that means each and everyone of us, view rape and sexual assault. We need to understand what “real rape” is and challenge our views on victim-survivors and their behaviour. We need to accept that victim-survivors are not responsible for the violence against them, that rape and sexual assault is carried out by men who intentionally set out to harm women, deliberately targeting women when they are vulnerable, trusting or not able to say no. Most importantly we need rape not to be an unspeakable crime. We need to be brave, confront the problem openly and take away the taboo.

Article sources:

If you would like to watch the documentary it is on BBC iplayer for he next 5 days:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen/tv/episode/b02qvpdq/The_Unspeakable_Crime_Rape 

For more information about rape myths visit: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsampfacts2.php

Crown prosecution service report: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/perverting_course_of_justice_march_2013.pdf

Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics research: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/100000-assaults-1000-rapists-sentenced-shockingly-low-conviction-rates-revealed-8446058.html

Why I decided to become a publicist for ordinary people

I was inspired to start Survivor Media by a woman I met while volunteering for a charity that helped women who have experienced violence. I volunteered in this role for two years.

My role involved meeting a woman one evening per week. The woman I supported was taking her perpetrator to court. Her court case was high profile and attracted much media interest. This meant that almost every newspaper, magazine and news agency in the UK wanted to interview her and publish her story. I helped her go through two A4 envelopes that were bulging with letters from almost every UK media outlet, some of the letters were even from media that were based overseas.

A handful of publications wrote beautifully crafted letters, promising to tell her story responsibly and sensitively while others simply offered to give her the highest price to sell it. One publication wrote the letter in the style of an insensitive and sensationalised press article, that had the violence she experienced named in the headline – that one went straight in the bin.

I had worked in public relations for ten years at that point and, for the first time, was party to what happens when a when an unknown person becomes a news story. Quite how a person with no media experience was meant to navigate through this maze was beyond me – even I found it intimidating initially.

Having talked it through, the woman decided that talking to the media wasn’t for her, even though this meant that she didn’t get to tell her side of the story. She was one of the rare people whose anonymity was protected and felt that openly speaking out would leave her feeling exposed as she didn’t want the world to know what had happened to her. Even though this was her decision, she found not getting her side of the story across immensely frustrating as much of what was written about her included inaccuracies that we couldn’t correct unless we revealed her identity.

This experience made me want to become a publicist for individuals who have no media knowhow, particularly for women who become interesting to the media because of an experience of violence. I decided to study and MA in Woman and Child Abuse at London Metropolitan university first as I wanted to ensure I could provide appropriate support and signpost to further services if required.

I also support organisations, such as law firms and charities, who invite their clients to talk publicly about their experiences in order to promote their services. I work with them and their clients to make sure the person whose story is being published is as important, if not more important, than the story.

Please contact me if you would like to know more about my person-first approach to media relations for private individuals and the organisations that support them.

We can all do something to stop others feeling isolated

I’ve just been working from a coffee shop. As I was typing away on my keyboard an elderly woman came and sat on the table opposite. After a while a man who I assume was her son came and set down their drinks. The son then proceeded to pick up and read a paper, completely ignoring his elderly mother.

Ever since she sat down I could feel her gaze upon me, clearly hoping for conversation. I was busy and trying not to engage. Then I realised this poor woman was surrounded by people but no-one was talking to her. I began thinking about how isolating that must feel and started feeling pretty angry with her son. Why wasn’t he talking to her? Taking someone out for coffee then ignoring them is really rude not to mention unfeeling! I started wondering about her life. Does she live alone? Is this the only time today when she will be around other people? Is this the only opportunity she will have for conversation? 

I began toying with the idea of telling her son what I thought. Then I got worried that if I did maybe he’d stop taking her out altogether. So I decided to pack up my laptop and come home to prevent me doing anything rash. But I resolved to chat to her first. As I started packing up she started making conversation. She remarked on my typing and we had a lovely chat about technology and how different things are today. Her son kept his head down and didn’t look up until I started making my excuses to leave. I hope he felt embarrassed, I hope he picked up on my vibe and could feel my disdain towards him as I could pick up on his mum’s loneliness.

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If you value women, please don’t vote Tory in the London Mayoral election

 

 

If you value women don't vote for Boris in the London Mayoral Election

See the sackboris2012 website for more info on the above campaign

I attended an event by the End Violence Against Women coalition yesterday. It was a mayoral hustle – where candidates from the main four political parties (Labour, Lib Dems, Green Party and Conservatives) talked about their policies to end violence against women, address the imbalance in gender and improve women’s rights in London. The aim was to get us to vote for their party in the next London Mayoral election.

What a sad day for politics! As @mariailarasi said on twitter “…Am thinking all candidates need some proper briefing on ALL VAWG [violence against women and girls] issues!!!”

To my mind, Val Shawcross from Labour and  Caroline Pidgeon from the Lib Dems came out on top but Caroline was the only candidate out of all four that actually referred to women who had experienced violence as survivors rather than victims.  At one point Val suggested there should be a victims commissioner. This is fine in principal (and possibly even helpful) but why the focus on the word victim? It’s negative, undermining, and is potentially re-victimising.  I realise ‘survivors commissioner’ may be a little problematic as the term victim is more widely used, however let’s have something more imaginative, positive and inspiring please! Pah! Let’s be brave, instigate a culture change and use the word survivor instead.

Another “OMG all candidates need proper briefing on ALL VAWG issues” moment was the constant focus by all parties on the police as the answer to the problem of violence against women and girls. The police are victim focussed, meaning women are denied agency (see end for definition), and they can only react once violence has occurred – meaning they can’t get to the root of the problem or solve it.

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