Survivors of sexual violence have talked about their experiences in a powerful short film aimed at encouraging other victims to seek support ahead of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
Produced by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, the new social media video aims to promote the guidance, help and care which is offered by her dedicated sexual violence support service, jointly delivered by independent charities RASA and RASASC as part of the Victim Care Merseyside service.
The four-minute film below features the testimony of three women who have been directly affected by different types of sexual violence and how the care they have received from the charities has enabled them to cope with the after-effects of that crime, regaining their strength and confidence.
It has been released to mark Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week which is held annually from 4th-10th February with the aim of raising awareness and understanding, while breaking the silence surrounding abuse by sparking a nationwide conservation using the hashtag #ItsNotOk.
Among those speaking out was Kim*, who was supported by RASASC after being the victim of rape within marriage. She said: “It took me an awful long time to report the crime, nearly two years in fact. I actually got to a place in my life where I just couldn’t keep the secret any longer.
“The biggest thing for me was about the belief, and that I was believed and listened to and not judged. I think burying the secret for two years clearly didn’t help, so I was trying to offload all of that burden as well.”
She added: “I think, finally, I’ve turned a corner, it’s been a long, long journey. I’m functioning normally and I’m pleased to say I’m a survivor and I’m happy.
Rachel* was also supported by RASASC after her daughter was sexually abused. She said: “They did the first initial assessment, they built up a rapport and the confidence they gave her to talk about anything, without any pressure. She was able to say that she was having night terrors, she was able to explain how and what she was feeling.
She added: “It’s made every bit of difference in the world, she’s no longer frightened to discuss anything. She’s got the confidence back that she had before the incident happened. I don’t know how we’d have got through without them.”
Sarah* was referred to RASA by her GP after she was attacked on a night out after getting separated from her friends. She said: “I thought I’d go downstairs to the toilet to see if anyone of the girls were down there and that’s when someone raped me.
She added: “I think the biggest thing RASA gave to me was that space to just talk about what had happened and it didn’t ever feel like something I should be ashamed of, it didn’t ever feel like something I had to hold back or anything that was my fault. I think that was the biggest thing for me, just having that acceptance of what had happened.”
RASA’s finance and strategy development manager Josephine Wood MBE said: “Our agenda is your agenda. We will work with you to achieve what you need to achieve to recover.
“When you come to our centre you’ll be welcomed, you’ll be expected, you’ll be greeted and it will be known you are coming so you don’t have to tell anyone why you’re there. We already know why you’re there.”
RASASC’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisor Team Leader Holli Waterson: “We’ve been there for people in their darkest times when they really, really need support and we are the service that can support them through those difficult periods in their life.”
Jane, who has run the Victim Care Merseyside service for the last four years, said: “Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week is an important opportunity for us to reassure victims and survivors of sexual violence know that there is always someone here to help in Merseyside.
“RASA and RASASC do an amazing job, supporting victims to become survivors of some horrendous crimes. We know that serious sexual violent offences are still under-reported in Merseyside and I am committed to working with RASA and RASASC, as well as Merseyside Police, to improve this situation. We are working together to ensure victims can speak out, confident in the knowledge they always have a place to turn, someone who is there to listen and to help.
“I would encourage anyone who has been affected by the issues highlighted in this short film to tell someone. Reach out – you will be respected, you will be listened to you and you will be believed.”
If you, or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, report it to Merseyside Police via their social media desk @MerPolCC or by calling 101. If you don’t wish to speak to the police you can contact RASA and RASASC directly on:
Anyone affected by crime should visit www.VictimCareMerseyside.org for help and advice and to find organisations that can offer support.
* Please note, names have been changed