Rape & Sexual Violence and abuse are not topics that many people feel able or want to discuss – it is surrounded by myths, taboos, and stereotypes. Survivors fear disclosing as they feel that they may not be believed that they will be judged, people will look at them differently. Some feel shame, self-blame, anger, guilt, helplessness, and some may still be in daily contact with the person(s) who abused them. It is often a complex picture, impacting upon relationships past and present with others and with the self.
The sheer scale of sexual violence is staggering:
- 1 in 4 women have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult.
- 1 in 6 children have been sexually abused.
- 1 in 20 men have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult.
Let those numbers sink in for a while, think about the people you know, the ones you work with, the ones you love. It is not an easy ask, it is not easy to think about people you care about being abused, raped, violated, repeatedly. It is not easy to think about if you are the one that it happened to.
Sexual violence is endemic in our society. 5 million women in England and Wales have been raped or sexually assaulted since the age of 16. And the response is appalling:
- The highest ever number of rapes within a 12-month period was recorded by police in the year ending March 2022 was 70,330.
- In that same time period, charges were brought in just 2,223 rape cases.
But bear in mind that this is the tip of the iceberg – most survivors of rape don't report it to the police.
- 5 in 6 women who are raped don’t report.
- 4 in 5 men who are raped don’t report.
But they do tell other people.
I have worked within the sexual violence field since 2002, when I first started on my counselling placement and have had the huge privilege of leading a specialist sexual violence service – West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (www.wmrsasc.org.uk) since 2004. We work with women, men and children (aged 5+) who have experienced any form of rape, sexual violence, abuse, exploitation or harassment at any time in their lives. We have a range of services including therapy/counselling, advocacy, and a whole host of CPD training (www.purpleleaf.org.uk). We are committed to working to raise awareness of sexual violence in all its forms, to provide support and to deliver preventative work.
Often people will comment on how difficult it must be, how depressing or ask how do you leave it at work? My response is generally the same, it can be tough, upsetting and filled with sorrow but (and this is a big but), to know that people have been able to share their experiences with me, to have that level of trust in me as a person and as a professional, to give me the opportunity to share their journey, see them change and eventually move on, is incredible, survivors are awe inspiring. It is a gift, it fuels the passion to make a change in society, to challenge inequalities and to shine a light on perpetrator behaviours, to make a difference. To hopefully change things for the future so that whilst survivors receive the support they need, when they need it for now, the hope is that eventually, services like mine will be a thing of the past.
Stats : Rape Crisis E&W, 2022
With thanks to Jocelyn Anderson, NCS' Sexual Violence and Abuse Ambassador, for this blog post.