We are writing about holding a workshop in your area aimed at helping and supporting women who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
We have published a self-help guide Justice is Your Right based on years of direct experience as rape survivors, families and advocates. It highlights the most common difficulties women come up against when reporting to the police, giving evidence in court and applying for compensation, and suggests ways to overcome obstacles.
Through careful work, determination and supporting each other, we have been able to get some investigations and prosecutions reopened, to win compensation appeals, and to get apologies for negligence. If more of us were fighting together we could all win more.
While more and more women are refusing to put up with rape, most don’t report attacks and don’t get justice when they do. Some may fear retaliation by the attacker or his associates; face sexism, racism or other discrimination at the hands of the authorities; or worry about being arrested (if they work in the sex industry or have a criminal record), or being deported (if they are an asylum seeker or immigrant). We are also concerned about the increasing number of women who are pressured to retract when they report rape or are prosecuted when the police decide they don’t believe them.
Whatever our situation we believe that we all deserve protection and justice, and that if we get together and share what we know we are in a stronger position to get it.
The workshop would be a way to strengthen women who have experienced sexual violence and want to find out more about their rights. We would start with a short presentation and then open the floor to questions and discussion. We would encourage women to speak about what they have gone through, and make suggestions on what can be done. We have found that we have a lot to learn from each other and that sharing in this way can be helpful to individual women and to everyone present.
As 80% of women seeking asylum in the UK have been raped and their rape is usually dismissed, we would also draw on Legal Action for Women’s Self-Help Guide against Detention and Deportation, which Black Women’s Rape Action Project and WAR contributed to.
We think the workshops should be women only to begin with as that creates a safe space to be able to open up and speak freely. We are aware that confidentiality may be a particular concern for some of those attending, and would make some suggestions at the start, such as using a different name, not giving out home addresses, etc.
Please let us know if you want to be involved in such an event and what you can contribute to it. We would need help with:
• A venue – Do you know anywhere that might be sympathetic and willing to help by providing a free or inexpensive room?
• Private or public the event – If you are part of a group you may want to hold a private workshop. Getting a dozen or so people together can be a very effective. Or you may want a bigger public event, in which case we would need a leaflet to advertise it. Would you be able to design and photocopy a leaflet and distribute it? It would also be helpful if the local paper(s) could print an article and raise support for it.
• Invite others – We hope you’ll be able to get support from friends and family, and that they may want to attend.
We can also discuss how we campaign for change and any ideas you may have. We recently sent an Open Letter to the head of the Crown Prosecution Service signed by 27 organisations across the UK pressing for an end to the prosecution of women who report rape. Together with the English Collective of Prostitutes, we also press for sex workers to be able to report rape or other violence without risking arrest and prosecution.
We want to build on the SlutWalk movement – we have been working closely with the organizers of the very successful London Slutwalk. And on the Occupy movement – we have had successful meetings at the National Occupy gatherings in London and Edinburgh to discuss how to protect women from rape, bullying and sexism while defending the Occupations.
If you contact us, we will discuss the above and what you can do to help shape the workshop.