“If we are to fight discrimination and injustice against women we must start from the home for if a woman cannot be safe in her own house then she cannot be expected to feel safe anywhere.” ― Aysha Taryam
This April is sexual assault awareness month. Pretty long title but it’s a form of sexual violence which basically covers many types of crimes and global issues such as rape, groping and domestic violence. Now, I’ve definitely held back from getting too involved over social media and decided to stick to one day because life is already pretty heavy with everything going on at the moment! Buuuut, it’s also a super important time as domestic violence is obviously on the insane rise and this month has a special focus on supporting victims.
I know the importance of feeling supported and heard, but it’s all so complex and daunting for all of us. The crime and abuse of many experiences are bad enough, but the aftermath of trauma, support and seeking justice sometimes feel so much worse. I know this because I’m a survivor (read more here) and I know how hard it is to be vulnerable, ask for help and to also provide the right help to others. Please do reach out to me for any advice or support. I hope this blog helps at least one person.
COVID-19 and the rise of domestic abuse
Fighting injustice remains my main fight because even for a wealthy and developed nation, we have a long way to go. Home is not always a safe place and outside is scary too. Violence against women are some of the only crimes that remain on the rise. And now in a lock-down, we’ve seen these statistics almost double with some helplines and support website traffic in the UK increased by 156%. But, have we seen a dramatic rise in police reporting? No, only about 3%. This is an issue.
Being in a lock-down situation means that these incidents are also becoming more violent and more common, however with refuges closed and being unable to leave our homes, many are left with few options and less safety. If you’re reading this and are not sure how to get help, connect with someone here or read at the bottom for other options.
Guys are not the problem
I know that men can be victims too, but women are the main victims in almost every crime (around 84%) with men the main offenders (around 92.4%) so, violence against women remains the key issue and crisis. But this doesn’t mean that men are the problem. It’s our cultures, our societies and our behaviours that need fixing. We’re talking about gendered crimes which are deeply rooted in almost every society around the world from the President of the United States to that guy in my hometown. It’s a pandemic in itself which has lasted decades but it’s still so invisible. So, how can we recognise, help and support those who need it the most including ourselves?
If your friend starts choking, what do you do? You try the Heimlich maneuver, call for help, call the emergency services. We do these steps because we know what to do in an emergency. But when someone you know may be a victim of violence, there are no clear steps on how to help them or how to even recognise the signs unless they’re 100% obvious, which by then, it’s very serious.
Ten signs of an unhealthy relationship
- Making threats or instilling fear.
- Insulting, putting you down or making you feel bad.
- Forcing you to do things unwillingly.
- Guilt tripping.
- Physically mistreating you (pushing, slapping…).
- Checking your social media, phone and web history constantly.
- Wanting to control where you are, who you spend time with etc.
- Cheating on you or accusing you of cheating.
- Forceful sex/rape.
- Manipulation with your finances or belongings.
Note, it’s important to notice these signs and to know where to get help from because the effects of abuse, assault and violence can last generations and has more impact than you’ll ever realise. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, it does, through our healthcare, our justice system, our taxes, our community, our loved ones and we’ll never break these cycles unless we address the root and heal as early on as we can. If you recognise these signs in your own relationship, please click here.
What is rape culture and am I involved?
Rape culture is all around us, it’s a very real thing. And it’s not that people are being told to rape or to be violent but it’s kinda excused or shrugged off in mainstream media and society. It creates a normalisation within our environments and through ‘locker room’ talk, derogatory language, objectification of women and porn/glamorisation of sex and violence, it enables a society that ignores others safety and rights.
Spot these examples
- “She asked for it!’’ or victim blaming.
- “Boys will be boys!” or telling everyone that assault is inevitable, and boys can’t be held accountable.
- “But guys get falsely accused all the time!” which is not true and deflects those who are truly affected. Men are more likely to be raped themselves than to be falsely accused.
- “But what were you wearing? Were you drinking?” this teaches that it’s more important to not get raped instead of teaching men to just not rape. It also deflects from the issue and causes more damage to the survivor.
- “Rough, beaten, underage and crying for help” these videos and titles in porn are damaging to those who confuse what they watch with real life and real situations to their online screen.
- “Men are dominant and aggressive grrrr and women are submissive and passive” not always true, not healthy and definitely should not be defined so much. Men can cry and women can be strong AF and so on and so on. Let’s embrace this.
See the issues?
For you, the survivor;
- Don’t be afraid to open up or ask for help and support. Try and stay connected.
- The silent solution; if you need urgent help and call 999 but it’s not safe to speak then your call will automatically go through to another option where you can press 55 so your call goes straight through to police and they’re aware of your situation.
- Practice self-care and self-love every day, even if it’s just for five minutes. You are important and loved always, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
- Find out what helps you to heal or manage your experience better whether it’s writing, exercise, painting. Find an outlet and some positivity for yourself.
For you seeking support for others and creating a better world
- Stay connected and don’t be afraid to create conversation.
- CONSENT! Always ask for consent, communicate and never assume.
- Think about the media, our friends and our own language and messages.
- Listen without judgement and believe what they are saying. We don’t even have to offer advice or question their choices. Just listen, believe and support.
- Speak out and stand up for what is right, even if it feels hard.
- Educate yourselves on these issues. There’s so much available on Netflix, TV and YouTube and the more we know and learn, the bigger chance we all have in creating safety and equality. I’ve tagged a load below!
It’s always tricky to write a blog like this. It’s hard to find a balance between knowledge, awareness and support but I hope it’s helped or made you think about something differently.
For anyone struggling, know you’re not alone, you’re worthy, you are loved and you’ll have better days. The actions of someone else is not your fault.
For anyone affected or for anyone who wants to talk, you can message me privately on here, on my Instagram @Vanishamay or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you all find some happiness, strength and courage today,
For more support;
For learning, listening and watching;