One in five women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of sixteen (ONS, 2013)… Just let that sink in as you consider the women around you - in your family and at work, those you see on screens, and that pass in the street.
It is no surprise and not uncommon then, when supporting people in the area of dating and relationships, a client may disclose a significant traumatic experience such as sexual assault or rape to a coach they trust. They may have never spoken about it before in their life, or they might have spoken to someone (even reported it) but wasn’t heard or believed at that time, instead blamed and shamed. Even as a relatively new coach I could share with you a number of stories where this has been the case.
For a survivor, ready to talk about this, it’s a huge and brave step. We always encourage people to seek further support and signpost them to their GP and other specialists.
Sadly, getting specialist help and support is not easy.
In recent years we’ve seen many high profile cases in the media, such as that of Weinstein that initiated the #MeToo movement. Each case comes as a double edged sword. On the one hand many are inspired, empowered and decide the time is right for them come forward. On the other, each breaking case and media storm can be a trigger of their own harrowing experience. The media are (thankfully) increasingly more accurate in their portrayals of rape and sexual assault, which has helped to bust some of the myths and false beliefs, prompting more and more people to recognise their experiences for what they were, rather than what seemed safer to believe at the time. We’ve seen an increased awareness through campaigns on issues such as consent, (if you still find it a grey area see here). And it’s a relief to see more awareness and education of these issues.
The challenge is though, the unprecedented spike in sex crime survivors seeking help means that many are having to wait months to get the emotional support that they need to help them in their recovery. Often this support comes in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through the NHS, or Counselling through specialist charities. Although the Ministry of Justice has reportedly increased funding to ease some of the pressure, on the ground survivors are still often waiting between two to eight months! Those that can afford it may decide to pay from their own pocket to get the support that they desperately need. For some, having to pay to repair the pervasive injuries caused by someone else's actions just adds to their sense of injustice. And many have no other option than to wait it out.
It is so important that people get the support that they need swiftly. Emotional injuries are just as serious and painful as physical ones. We wouldn’t leave people walking around on broken legs for months on end - that would be inhumane! For a survivor ready to start their journey to heal, it can hurt just the same.
So on World Health Day 2018 we are supporting Rape Crisis and Survivors UK. You can join in too by donating here and here. We are calling for #HealthForAll through better support and education. The Time Is Now!