Day 15 of #16Days of action to end violence against women and we bring you a short piece from SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Assault Support) who today are launching a campaign to improve awareness and understanding of sexual consent – check out the campaign website – http://www.pauseplaystop.org.uk or tweet using the hashtag #igetconsent.
Up until a few years ago, the sexual abuse I suffered throughout my childhood was a faded memory. There had been times in my late teens when I struggled with the consequences of it and I talked to adults outside my family. As I got older and had my own family, the only time I ever thought about it was when the subject was brought up by someone else, for example, a news item or a storyline in a television drama. I would always turn it off immediately and then dismiss it. When the family member involved died 5 years ago, I thought that chapter of my life had been put to rest.
Everything changed when I found out that someone else in my family had been abused by him too and was in a very bad way. Knowing that he’d done it to someone else completely changed the way I viewed him and my perspective on what happened to me. It turned me upside down – I felt sick, confused and tearful and didn’t know what I was supposed to do to make myself feel better.
I have since had face-to-face counselling and a lot of telephone support from the SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support) helpline. When I thought I was the only one it had happened to, I didn’t really view it as proper abuse. There was no violence or threats, I truly believed that he thought he had made a mistake and would never do it again and because I had every opportunity to stop it, but didn’t, I thought I was partly to blame. Counselling enabled me to see the abuse for what it really was and now, I don’t blame myself for any of it.
I would have said a few years ago, what would be the point of talking about it, it’s in the past, it can’t be changed, just move on. While that is true and you can’t change what happened, sexual trauma can have a deep impact on your life, maybe in how you view yourself, your emotions and relationships. Talking about it can help you deal with any lasting effects from the horrible experience, because it is horrible and it’s wrong to see it any other way. I wish now that I hadn’t waited for a trigger before I talked properly to someone about it. It would have been much easier to have talked when I hadn’t felt so desperate. I think it would have been a much smoother path.
If all the recent publicity has made you think about it, organisations like SARSAS have trained female counsellors that you can tell anything to – they won’t judge you and they will always be on your side.
Violence against women and girls:
If you have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence help and support is available across Bristol. To find out more check out the Bristol Against Violence and Abuse website http://www.bava.org.uk/ or for information sexual violence support call SARSAS on freephone 0808 801 0456 and for domestic violence support call the National Domestic Abuse helpline freephone 0808 2000 247.
- If you are supporting someone who has experienced domestic and/or sexual violence it may be hard to know what to say or do to help. It’s okay to not have all the answers; non-judgmental listening and simply being there can be a wonderful support. Let your loved one know that you care, that you don’t blame them, and that you believe in them. If you want more support with this many of the services for survivors will be able to advise you too.
How to help in general:
get involved in campaign groups like the Fawcett Society http://www.bristolfawcett.org.uk/
- get the men in your life to join the White Ribbon campaign http://www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk/
- support the #heforshe campaign – more information found here – http://www.heforshe.org/
- call out street harassment and rape culture when you see it. For ideas about how to be a safe but proactive bystander check out the Hollaback campaign http://www.ihollaback.org/take-action/
- volunteer or fundraise for one of the many fantastic charities who are support women and girls in Bristol who have experience domestic and/or sexual violence.