BWV Reporter Nancy Fielding has published a piece in Bristol 24/7.
A copy of it is below – note, *possible trigger warning*.
‘What on earth is Bristol doing inviting a known rapist to speak here?’
By Nancy Fielding
In the week when Bristolian women celebrated International Women’s Day in a multitude of exciting ways, we also experienced a boxer who has been convicted multiple times of violence against women visiting our city, and the promise that a man who freely admits he is a rapist will be speaking at an event here on Monday night. What on earth is going on?
Boxer Floyd Mayweather is one of the wealthiest men on the planet and is celebrated for his sporting achievements. He has also been convicted multiple times of domestic violence against women, he has been sentenced to community service, given a suspended jail term and, in 2012, spent three months in prison for six offences of violence towards women. His presence in Bristol (where his event was cancelled last year due to objections, and moved around several venues this year due to further objections) was greeted by a protest outside the venue. (http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/floyd-mayweather-event-met-with-raucous-protest-over-domestic-violence-charges/story-30190374-detail/story.html)
And there’s more. On Monday, rapist Tom Stranger will be speaking at a Festival of Ideas event in a bookshop… alongside Thordis Eva, the woman he raped. (http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/events/thordis-elva-tom-stranger/)
Stranger raped Elva in 1996 when she was 16 and he 18, in an ordeal lasting two hours while she was so drunk she could not even speak and he took advantage of a vulnerable young woman of whom he was supposed to be looking after. Chillingly, Elva now says: “In order to stay sane, I silently counted the seconds on my alarm clock. And ever since that night, I’ve known that there are 7,200 seconds in two hours.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/rape-victim-thordis-elva-attacker-tom-stranger-tell-story-together-sexual-violence-understand-shame-a7571076.html)
Eight years after the rape, Elva decided to contact Stranger and confront him via a series of emails, which culminated in a decision to meet up. The result of this is a joint TED Talk, a co-written book, and a series of talks promoting the book where both Elva and Stranger take the platform. And this is what will be happening in Bristol on Monday as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas.
The Bristol event has so far faced an online petition, a volley of upset and angered people who are expressing themselves on social media, and a range of blog posts. All against the event and expressing shock and disgust at the event, and at the invitation of a rapist to speak in our city. Elva and Stranger had been due to speak in London this weekend at the Women of the World Festival, but this has just been cancelled due to a huge outcry from angered women. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/09/womens-festival-drops-event-with-rapist-protests-thordis-elva)
There seems no difference between Stranger and Mayweather. They are both men who have committed violent acts against women, and who are being ‘celebrated’ and invited to come and speak in our city about themselves as if they are heroes. It is inappropriate. And it is insulting that we are expected to pay to hear them, as if their opinions are valuable.
In many ways, the Tom Stranger event is even more unpalatable than the Floyd Mayweather one, because Stranger has not been convicted of his crime, because he is presented as a charming, white, middle-class, conventionally attractive man who therefore isn’t a criminal (yet he freely admits he is a rapist), and because of the devastating message this puts out to women everywhere that there is no point seeking a conviction for their rapist because rapists rarely get convicted. This reinforces the existing damaging message that women are not to be believed.
While this event may pretend to be (and the Festival of Ideas insists this is the case) about Thordis Elva and her experience, it is not. It has, of course, become all about this man and not about the woman at all. Despite the fact Elva is an extremely interesting and strong woman who has achieved impressive things in her career. But this story has now become about him, not her. Which is a shame, because in her native Iceland Elva is an acclaimed feminist writer, journalist and public speaker who was named woman of the year 2015, and she is a recognised specialist on violence against women and girls. She sounds amazing.
Elva’s story is important, as is the story of all rape survivors. But just as her words are overshadowed by the very charming voice of her rapist in their TED Talk (a rapist who makes jokes while he talks, and who stands with his hands in his pockets while his victim talks), Elva’s story is also being overshadowed by the presence of Stranger in their live talks. Scribe, who published their book South Of Forgiveness this month, have said: “Tom Stranger is a perpetrator of rape. He has acknowledged as much publicly, and seeks to avoid inappropriate praise for his admission of guilt. He believes taking responsibility for committing any form of sexual violence should be viewed as essential rather than praise-worthy, whilst going to lengths to avoid suggesting that perpetrators should make contact with any individuals they have subjected to sexual violence. He will be donating a proportion of the proceeds from the project to charity.”
That’s great in theory but the reality is that Stranger is of course dominating all of the discussions, newspaper articles, social media posts and general debates around Elva’s story – a story that she has a right to explore in whatever way she feels appropriate for her. Yet again, he is dominating her and her experiences. And whether or not Elva feels this herself, the message being put out there for all other survivors of rape and sexual assault is that their voices and experiences do not count, that they should be making peace with their rapist.
The Bristol Festival of Ideas has issued a statement saying: “We have organised a number of events around violence against women and girls and have supported many women’s and feminist organisations in their work. These are issues we continue to explore and organise events and initiatives around.” But this doesn’t excuse anything. The fact that they have included some events in their past and future programmes around feminism has no bearing on the fact this this one event is alienating and potentially triggering to existing survivors of sexual assault – women will doubtless feel excluded from the event as why on earth would they wish to attend?
It is worth also remembering that Bristol has good credentials as a feminist city. Bristol was the first city to sign up to the European Convention against Trafficking; was the first UK city to sign up to the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life; was the first city to create a mayoral Women’s Commission; was one of the first UK cities to have a violence against women strategy; was awarded White Ribbon status, showing the city’s commitment to eliminating violence against women and girls; has the ‘This Is Not An Excuse’ programme of public advertising across the city to challenge ideas of sexual entitlement; has a programme of education available to all of Bristol’s early years, primary and secondary schools via the Bristol Ideal; offers workplace DV training sessions being developed by Public Health Bristol; and Bristol is host to the widely acclaimed Zero Tolerance initiative, working towards a city that is free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.
Bearing all of this in mind, what on earth is Bristol doing inviting a known rapist to speak here? It’s truly staggering. Not only did this man commit a violent sexual assault on a woman, but he has received no criminal punishment, and now he is profiting from his actions as a rapist (as noted above, Stranger is only donating ‘a proportion’ of his fee from the book and talks to charity).
This whole episode puts out the very harmful message that as long as you say ‘sorry’, you can get away with the most hideous of crimes.
Nancy Fielding is a reporter for Bristol Women’s Voice: an organisation seeking to make women’s equality a reality in Bristol.
In January this year, Bristol Women’s Voice discovered that The Marriott Hotel Bristol is hosting ‘An Evening With Floyd Mayweather’ on the 8th of March 2017, which is also the date of International Women’s Day. Mayweather is a man who has long history of violence against women, including several convictions and Bristol Women’s Voice does not believe we should be providing a platform for him to speak and sell his image. In February 2016 the Colston Hall cancelled a similar event after objections from women’s charities and groups. Ashton Gate, who were previously hosting, canceled the event stating that it went against the family values of the club and stadium.
A petition has been created to urge the Marriott Hotel to cancel the event. You can sign the petition here.
There will also be a protest outside the Marriott Hotel – details can be found here.
On 30th January 2017, Bristol Women’s Voice wrote an open letter to Marriott Hotel, City Centre Bristol. A copy of the letter is below:
To whom it may concern,
It has come to our attention that the Marriott Hotel is hosting an event called ‘an evening with Floyd Mayweather’ on the 8th of March 2017, which is also the date of international women’s day. In February 2016 the Colston Hall cancelled a similar event after objections from women’s charities and groups. Tour events in other cities including Cardiff were also cancelled, and Jonathan Ross pulled out of hosting the event.
Mayweather is a man who has long history of violence against women, including several convictions. We do not believe that the Marriott Hotel should be providing a platform for him to speak and sell his image, especially on a day celebrating the achievements of women. The idolising of a dangerous perpetrator of domestic violence is unacceptable and we believe you should cancel your event.
Over fourteen thousand women and girls aged sixteen to fifty nine suffered from Domestic Violence in Bristol last year. In a time of austerity when services for domestic violence are being cut, and still two women a week are dying in the hands of male ex/partners, we believe providing Mr Mayweather with a platform to speak, particularly without questioning him about his violent, misogynist acts, gives a dangerous and damaging message to the public.
As a community we must stand together against violence against women and challenge the idea that talent and money make it excusable. By not providing Mayweather with a platform we can make that stand and choose to tell him and others that his actions and behaviour are not acceptable. Many of the women that face domestic violence do not have a platform to speak from and we believe that seeing Mr Mayweather speak and be celebrated will further their suffering and anxiety and reconfirm that actions such as his are acceptable. Those who face domestic violence often have a long and difficult recovery suffering from social stigma and lack of action by officials and we do not want them to feel that access to justice is dependant on celebrity status.
We should remember that one in three women globally will experience violence at the hands of a partner. Domestic Violence is not a rare incident and we must all take action to put an end to it.
We urge you to take this matter seriously and cancel your event. If you choose to go ahead with the event you risk damaging your otherwise good name.
We look forward to your response on this matter.
On behalf of:
Bristol Women’s Voice
SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support)
Bristol Sisters Uncut
On 1st February, Bristol Women’s Voice received the following response:
Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with me. We are a hospitality company that simply provides public accommodations and function space. Acceptance of business does not indicate support, or endorsement of any group or individual.
Disappointed with this response, Bristol Women’s Voice wrote another letter to the Marriott, again urging them to reconsider. A copy of this letter is below:
We are wholeheartedly disappointed by your response that the Marriott Hotel is “a hospitality company that simply provides public accommodations and function space. Acceptance of business does not indicate support, or endorsement of any group or individual.”
“We demonstrate our purpose, values and principles of responsible business through policies on employment, human rights, environment, supply chain, and in the conduct we uphold and expect of others.”
“We Act with Integrity
How we do business is as important as the business we do.
We hold ourselves to uncompromising ethical and legal standards. This extends to our day-to-day business conduct, our employee policies, our supply chain policies, our environmental programs and practices, and our commitment to human rights and social responsibility.”
We ask that you please clarify how these principles of “responsible business” and “uncompromising ethical standards” is in keeping with your decision to host Floyd Mayweather on International Women’s Day?
Further, we would like to draw your attention to some other points to take into your consideration. As we previously explained in our initial letter, many women in Bristol suffer from domestic violence but we also wanted to draw your addition to the fact that statistically, there may be employees of the Marriott Hotel City Centre too that are impacted by domestic violence. The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence have produced a handy calculator that helps you assess the cost impact of domestic violence on your workforce – we recommend that you look at this tool which is available to view here.
In addition, we want to draw attention to the impact domestic violence has on the workplace. The lost economic output of women affected, costs the UK £36.7bn annually. The cost to UK businesses is over £1.9 billion annually. In the UK in any one year, more than 20% of employed women take time off work because of domestic violence and abuse, and 2% lose their job as a direct result of the abuse. 56% of abused women arrive late for work at least five times and 58% miss at least three days of work a month. On average, workers who experience domestic violence miss 26% more work time due to absenteeism and lateness than workers who do not experience violence.
As an employer, the Marriott has a legal obligation and responsibility to support and protect your employees. You must adhere to legal requirements around health, safety and the mitigation of harm to the physical and emotional wellbeing of employees. You have a duty of care to the people you employ, for example ensuring anti-harassment, discrimination, and bullying within your codes of conduct. By hosting Mayweather, you are compromising the duty of care are that you give to your staff.
Again, we ask you to re-consider your decision to host Mayweather at the Marriott on International Women’s Day.
Bristol Women’s Voice
Bristol Women’s Voice has also written to the event sponsors asking them to reconsider sponsorship:
Bristol Blue Glass
Whats on Bristol
As of date of publication of this post, we are yet to receive a response from any of the sponsors, nor a further response from the Marriott Hotel.
On February 27, the Bristol Post announced that it was pulling out of holding the Women of the Year Awards 2017 on March 9 at the Marriott Hotel, City Centre. Instead, it is now being hosted at an alternative venue. More details can be found here.
On February 28, the following businesses and organisations have joined BWV as signatories to the open letter to the Bristol Marriott:
- UNISON University of the West of England
- Bristol University Student’s Union
- UNISON SW
- The University of West of England
- Hollie Gazzard Trust
- Bristol Disability Equality Forum
- See it From Her
Bristol Women’s Commission launched on International Women’s Day the Zero Tolerance campaign for Bristol to become a city with a zero tolerance approach to gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation.
Bristol Women’s Voice is hiring for:
A Communications Assistant to provide effective communications and administrative support for this initiative. For more detailed information, please download the Job Description – Communications Assistant.
For any queries, please contact email@example.com
To apply, please complete the applications form and return to firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline is midnight of 7th October 2016.
Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted by 5pm 10th October 2016.
Interviews will be held at Brunswick Court, Brunswick Square on Wednesday 12th October 2016.
Users of a Bristol cycle track may have seen some unusual posters on their way to work this morning. Bold black and white images of women with slogans like “Women are not outside for your entertainment” and “My outfit is NOT an invitation” can be seen along the Bristol to Bath Cycle Path and at other locations in Easton. The action is part of an international movement of activists taking part in “World Wheat Pasting Night”. The event was created by the New York artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Her ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile’ art series draws attention to street harassment by placing drawn portraits of real women and their words outside in public spaces.
Rachel, a local activist, part of a local group of women taking part said:
“It feels so good and exciting to do something positive and visible like this. I loved seeing the posters in my area last year, so I thought I would take part in the 2016 event. I really want to educate people to know that it isn’t ok to harass women in the street.”
For more information about International Wheat Posting Night go tohttp://stoptellingwomentosmile.com
Our third key priority is our wo-manifesto is Safety.
What do we mean by this?
We want to make Bristol a city free from any form of gender-based violence, abuse, harassment of exploitation by becoming a Zero Tolerance City with:
– a greater understanding of gender-based violence
– enhance specialized and appropriate support services that adequately meet the needs of all women and girls
– high quality work on prevention and education around gender-based violence, gender stereotyping and discrimination.
What are the key issues in Safety?
We have produced a handy infographic to highlight some of the key issues for women.
So what needs to change?
We have identified some calls to action that we believe will bring about change to Bristol women’s safety.
|Who?||Call to Action|
|All local employers||All employers sign our zero tolerance pledge|
|ASPolice, Local transport providers, Bristol Courts of Justice, CPS, The Law Society||Greater consistency in training of Police Officers, judges, lawyers and local transport systems|
|ASPolice, Bristol City Council||Local authorities to tackle street harassment|
|Bristol City Council||Nil-cap on Sexual Entertainment Venues|
|National and local government, NHS||Improved access to specialized support, including mental health services|
|National and local government||Commitment to ensure future of specialized services|
|Bristol City Council||Creation of a Gender-Based Violence Prevention Commissioner and funding for post of Crime Reduction Project Officer, Prevention of Violence and Abuse Against Women and Children|
|Advertising Standards Authority, national government||Regulation of harmful images in the media, age restrictions accessing pornography|
|Bristol City Council||City-wide advertising and licensing policy|
|National and local government||Appropriate Access to Justice and Support for victims|
|Local media organisations||Local media providers to tackle cultural misconceptions|
|See Education||Compulsory adequate Sex &Relationships Education, all schools to sign up to Bristol Ideal, embedding of Intervention Initiative|
What do you think are the key issues for women in regards to Safety?
What would you like to see included?
Tweet us @BWV2 using #BristolWomensVote
Several of our members at Bristol Women’s Voice expressed concern over “An Evening with Floyd Mayweather” a scheduled appearance at Colston Hall. On Tuesday 2 February 2016, Floyd Mayweather, famous for boxing and infamous for his multiple domestic violence convictions, had been booked to appear at Bristol’s Colston Hall.
Further to signposting members to a petition, and a scheduled protest on the evening, Bristol Women’s Voice, alongside SARSAS, Bristol Zero Tolerance and UWE: End It Now wrote a joint letter to Bristol Music Trust who manage Colston Hall to express our concern.
On Tuesday 26th January, Bristol Women’s Voice were pleased to hear that the appearance has now been cancelled, with as of yet, no details as to why, and not yet a formal response to our letter.
Combined with the petition and protest, this event shows the importance of spreading awareness around domestic violence and abuse to show that Bristol is a zero tolerance city and will continue to campaign against violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. These collective efforts on behalf of Bristol’s community show that collective empowerment can make a difference.
Any response from Bristol Music Trust will be published on our website in due course.
Survive is hiring for a new post – Support Line Worker, details below.
Support Line Worker* (30 hours per week)
The Support Line worker at Survive provides a vital first point of call for women experiencing domestic violence and abuse (DVA) in South Gloucestershire. The part time role could be undertaken by a single worker or as a job share. The Support Line is open from 9.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday and is closed over lunch from 12.30 – 1pm. Hours would need to be agreed with the successful applicant on how best to cover the Support Line.
The main tasks in the role are to answer the support line, take initial referrals from women who are experiencing, or have experienced DVA, complete safety plans with the women, and provide information to professionals working with families in this situation. Each referral requires a full risk assessment to ascertain the current level of risk to the family and considers the options available for support. Referrals are then made to appropriate services provided both by Survive or external agencies. Families experiencing DVA can experience many additional barriers such as issues around immigration, housing, mental health, child contact or drug/alcohol use. Part of the role is to look into the options available and provide some level of advocacy to ensure families access all the services they need.
As the first point of contact you will work closely with all other teams at Survive, which include: the Refuge Support Workers (based over three refuges), the IDVA team, the Outreach team, and the Children and Young People’s Team. You will be managed by the Refuge and Support Line Manager to provide a comprehensive and consistent service to women, whether calling just for advice, or requiring a plan to be coordinated for their intake into refuge. There is always a worker answering the support line phones during the week, and on some days this role is supported by volunteers. Part of the Support Line role is to support and train new volunteers to be an asset to the Support Line service and to increase Survive’s capacity to support women and families in South Gloucestershire. The role is based within the Head Office at Survive where there is a strong team work and information sharing culture between workers in different teams.
You will join a team of 25 specialist staff (full and part time) working for a charity established in 1974 with a strong reputation. As well as the Support Line, Survive offers refuge accommodation, a wide range of services including group work as part of the nationally recognised Freedom Programme and group work for children and young people. We have an IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisors) team who work with women at high risk and a service based at Southmead A&E supporting people who present there with injuries as a result of abuse. Survive offers an educational programme in schools, educating teaching staff to identify and support children living in abusive households. We also offer parenting workshops and 1:1 support for children and young people.
Closing date: Monday 1st February at 12pm. Interviews: Monday 8th February 2016.
For application packs please download documents from our website: www.survivedv.org.uk or email email@example.com.
*This post is restricted to women due to the nature of the role. The Occupational Requirement under Schedule 9 (part 1) of the Equality Act 2010 applies. Charity No 1114005
November 25 is the UN day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Why this day?
According to the United Nations:
- Violence against women is a human rights violation
- Violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women
- Violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security
- Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential
- Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic. Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.
So what about Bristol?
Based on a population of 432,500 (ONS 2012 Mid-Year Population Estimate), the Home Office estimates that14,273 women and girls aged 16-59 in Bristol have been a victim of domestic abuse in the past year. The figure is much higher if we include women above 60 years old and men of any age.
In addition, compared to other core cities in England, Bristol is ranked the third highest reported for sexual offences per thousand population. Estimates suggest that 43,340 women in Bristol are likely to have been raped or sexually abused at some point in their lifetime.
90% of UK responses to Hollaback‘s international survey on street harassment in 2014 said they first experienced harassment on the street before reaching the age of 17, and 63% of women reported that they had been groped or fondled within the last 12 months.
Sexual exploitation has also been highlighted as a key issue in Bristol with a number of high profile cases. Exploitation constitutes a form of coercion and violence, detrimental to the person’s physical and mental health and can include sexual or economic exploitation.
We don’t have any specific statistics for Bristol but in the UK over 2,400 children were victims of sexual exploitation in gangs and groups between 2010 and 2011 and over 230 children were known to be trafficked for sexual exploitation in 2014. In 2014, 2,340 people were also identified as potential victims of trafficking, 671 of these were children.
So what can we do about it?
There are a series of events starting on November 25 and continuing across the 16 Days Call to Action ending 10 December.
Please get involved, show your support, raise awareness and fundraise!
If you would like to add an event here, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org
12:30- 2:30pm, the Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square, BS2 8PE
This is an opportunity for women to come together to discuss what Bristol becoming a city with a Zero Tolerance to gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation would mean to them and what needs to happen for this to become a reality.
This will feed into the new Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative and allow women to raise the issues that are most important to them and where they think the most change can be made across the city. You can also take part in the Bristol Zero Tolerance photo campaign as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Bristol Zero Tolerance is a new initiative working towards Bristol becoming a city free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. Bristol is the first city in England to take on this challenge and we hope that it will inspire other cities to implement similar initiatives. We are working with the City Council and other bodies to bring together existing action on gender-based violence across the city and are encouraging and supporting other organisations to sign up and take action on this important issue.
This is a lunch-time event so that women can drop in at any point during their lunch break and also to avoid women travelling in the dark. Refreshments will be served.
This event is for those who identify as women and who live, work or study in the city of Bristol.
How to book:
To book your place at the event please contact email@example.com and let us know if you have any access or dietary requirements.
Working in partnership with Bristol Zero Tolerance, Women’s Aid are launching a new initiative with Bristol City Council, Domestic Abuse: It’s Your Business at the M Shed on Thursday 3rd December.
Women’s Aid will be working with local businesses in Bristol and across Avon and Somerset to provide free training on the impact of domestic abuse. We will provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to respond effectively to any employee that may be experiencing domestic abuse and to make the workplace an environment in which employees feel encouraged and safe to disclose.
For more information click here.
4:30pm, Queens Square, Bristol
The march is part of End Violence against Women Week and Thursday 25th November is a pivotal date within the week and marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women.
The procession will leave Next Link, 5 Queen Square at 4.30pm and make its way to College Green. Here, at 5pm, two larger candles will be lit to symbolise the two women who die each week through domestic abuse in this country. There will also be a minutes silence for gatherers to pay their respects to those whose lives have affected by domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault.
If you can please bring a jam jar or portable tealight holder- tealights and hot chocolate will be provided before the march.
On 27 November University of Bristol Student’s Union will be taking to the streets of Bristol as part of Reclaim the Night, a national movement against sexual violence and for gender equality.
It will be starting at 7pm at Queen’s Square and end at Bristol Student’s Union where there will be stalls and music etc.
For more info click here.
End It Now is a student led campaign seeking to support UWE students when faced with sexual violence, domestic violence, hate crimes and harassment. We want to make sure EVERY student feels safe, supported and empowered.Discuss the campaign, how you can get involved, ideas for events and activities, meet others passionate about making change or simply find out more! Click here to email for more info.
Community Reporter Layla Carter explores the notion that “victims” are blamed for the crime committed against them. How does the crime affect them and in particular, how does victim blaming affect them?
As part of the BWV Community Reporting Course, I explored the idea of victim blaming holding women back from reporting their case. I wanted to challenge this idea and see what the truth about victim blaming is and what this really means for the survivor. To do this I thought I would go straight to the source and decided to work with a well- established organisation for survivors of sexual, or physical abuse amongst others. What happens to the offender, and more importantly what happens to the survivor after the crime has taken place?
Next Link provides safe space for women who have experienced violence against them. They also work with male survivors too but the truth is there are more females who need to be supported. This seems to be an unfaltering fact of society as it evolves. The woman who has experienced abuse, could be getting support alongside a trial or awaiting the outcome of a trial, or may be discussing options of what to do. They could be in many different positions including that they may not actually have taken it to the police and just need support. They could also have been referred by the police or another organization. The people who work there are highly trained as they could be working with someone who is still experiencing a form of abuse from someone else.
I interviewed Debbie Naylor who is the manager and an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor for women. The interview was very informative and filled me with great positivity for the future support of women. As an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor, Deb was able to answer my questions with a high level of knowledge.
The response she gave to whether there was enough victim support services available outside of the police was one of hope and encouragement. I was informed of how things had improved over the last few years due to campaigning to provide support. Due to these factors, organisations like Next Link could refer women into other agencies. This will make women feel supported in their experience and provide them with options they may not have known they had and would pass no judgement on the choices which they make.
Something I wanted to focus on was the idea of victim blaming as I often wondered if this is something which holds women back from reporting their experiences and makes them feel shamed into silence. Deb told me services like theirs aims to dispell any myths, stereotypes and stigma around victim blaming, telling me that there will always be a certain undercurrent within society which encourages the attitudes and confirming that it still exists.
As I asked Deb all the questions I had, I felt reassured as a woman of how positive she remained. With all the help that she provides at Next Link, it makes me feel happy that survivors of domestic abuse who are referred will be fully given the support needed to suit them as individuals. The next question was about how other services such as Womankind and Mind would support women. Next Link themselves have supported 3, 500 people since they began, and work very hard to dispell the myths which hold back people from giving information which could help with either the case, or the recovery. Unlike with the police, where a lot of victims feel failed and traumatised as a result of the process, Next Link will provide a safe place to speak freely about what the women have endured. Women may have felt victimised by the court proceedings and the effect this has on them can run deep and last a long time, so they need supporting. Whether they want to pursue the case or not is entirely their decision but either way, the survivor will need help.
Deb informed me that without services like theirs it would be harder to identify the causes and effects of what has been experienced. The survivor could have symptoms which they develop or worsen which could be indicative of a larger problem, such as an eating disorder or self- harm. Without their services these effects could be overlooked and have devastating consequences. On television or social media, if handled well, these issues can reach out to people. However, if not depicted properly it can create misconceptions that can become embedded deep within our culture, or be promoted throughout society. Campaigns are generally more effective in tackling subjects like rape, which is why we need to carry out a lot more research. This will stop women feeling scared or ashamed of what happened to them or what could happen as a result of reporting the crime.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that for some women, the experience of going to court on top of the rape can add to the trauma and for these reasons and potentially others down to the competence of the police, survivors can feel discouraged. I wonder if the women who experience rape in its many forms were asked what they would rather be called, what their response would be. Is it more empowering to be called a survivor rather than a victim? Does this just give more responsibility to the woman to act a certain way or provoke this behaviour in men? Does it exclude them as survivors of crime against other victims of crime, further scrutinising them and making them accountable for their actions?
Yet, a survivor makes me think of someone who is only surviving and not living, able to offer nothing to the world but the pain of their past wounds. The term victim seems to invoke more empathy. Survivor sounds like someone who will always be on a lonely ride, consumed by an act committed against them, who wakes up every morning to fight another day. What if one day they wake up and feel they cannot survive anymore? Only this fighter is not deemed fit to be a warrior, they are a feeble survivor. They are a shield, not a weapon. Where is the power there? Who does this terminology benefit? Maybe we need to start asking that ahead of time, instead of just changing our mind constantly about how we think women who have been raped want to be thought of as? Maybe they don’t just want to live to fight another day. Maybe they don’t want to live to fight. Maybe they just want to live.