This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Report of visit to Romania by WAR

p1090692.jpgIn April, Women Against Rape was invited to Romania to take part in a weekend of workshops organised by a women’s group in Bucharest called Sprijin Dupa Viol – Support After Rape. Two of us went. It was our first time in Romania, and we were very excited to be meeting an anti-rape organisation there.

Women involved in the group have in the past co-organised Slutwalk Bucharest and demonstrations demanding protection orders for women experiencing domestic violence (similar to a UK restraining order). They told us that there are very few organisations supporting women who have suffered rape and domestic violence - in particular in cases of sexual violence, the resources are extremely scarce.

p1090701small.jpgSprijin Dupa Viol got funding from FRIDA: 1) to write a toolkit / guide for women who have been raped (loosely like ours), explaining the legal system in Romania, in addition to other information on rape culture and ways to support rape survivors; and 2) to organise a series of workshops for women aged between 16-25 years old. In the longer term, they plan to work with women of all ages.

We spent the weekend discussing our experiences of campaigning and supporting survivors of rape and domestic violence. We were thrilled to find that Sprijin Dupa Viol shares some of our principles, especially to remain independent of the state, and to support sex workers demand for decriminalisation.

p1090711small.jpgSome of the women in the group have faced considerable criticism from other feminists over their opposition to the European Women’s Lobby initiative to further criminalise prostitution. They signed and circulated a letter to the European parliament opposing this proposal. This led to a very public clash on social media, where they stood their ground. Many in the group were earlier part of a larger initiative that successfully fought against the introduction of a compulsory mediation process for women who wish to report a rape, and won.

They told us that the Criminal Code was changed in February 2014 and this included some changes to laws concerning rape and domestic violence but they are of limited use – especially to women who don’t have any money. There is a three month statute of limitation for reporting; there is no anonymity for women who report; it is commonplace for the police to assume an rape allegation is false; and no procedures for the police to follow when they investigate sexual offences. Medical examinations are expensive if you don’t report an attack to the police (and even if you do report, in reality, while many women, especially in rural areas, can’t afford to pay for an examination or the cost of transport to a medical centre. So despite the recent changes to the law (the introduction of marital rape in the criminal code in 2003 or the protection order in 2012), the obstacles to justice are stacked against women.

We were impressed by their organisational skills; many of them are in full-time waged work and they only have evenings and weekends to plan and organise their project. They also run a vegan cafe on Sundays to raise money, and the vegan food they cook is wonderful.

p1090698.jpgWe also met with a group called Carusel, a community based organisation providing harm reduction services for drug and alcohol users, sex workers and people living on the street. They reported that most of their users are Roma, including children, and they give vital food and basic services to people who have nothing.

The trip was a great opportunity to begin an international relationship between us. We are glad that we were able to share some useful ideas with a group just starting out, and learn from their questions, comments and comparisons to their situation. We tried to explain how much our organising was clarified and strengthened by being based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre with other supportive organisations such Black Women’s Rape Action Project and the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). This was of great interest to them, as they are also fighting discrimination, especially against sex workers, Roma people and LBGTQ people. By coincidence, the ECP was invited to Bucharest by another organisation and was able to visit them shortly after us.

p1090688stepssmall.jpgSpending some days with Sprijin Dupa Viol gave us an insight into the difficulties that women face in other countries, and how they are not defeated by them. They are organised, determined and dedicated to demanding change. It made us more aware that despite the similar problems women face everywhere when reporting rape, we have had a number of victories in the UK, such as anonymity and the legal recognition that rape in marriage is a crime. These victories strengthen women everywhere, as they prove that much can be won through campaigning and putting pressure on the authorities.

We are planning an exchange later in the year so Sprijin Dupa Viol can come to the UK and meet with us and the other groups at the women’s centre. We hope we can work together more closely and support each other's campaigning for justice.

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