The 4th International Conference on Survivors of Rape: Rape, survivors, policies and Support Systems a European Challenge   Leave a comment

I was excited to receive an invitation to The 4th International Conference on Survivors of Rape: Rape, survivors, policies and Support Systems a European Challenge.

My excitement was quelled when I noticed the ‘on’ in the sentence, my first reading was ‘of’ or ‘for’ Survivors of Rape.  Of course the conference is ‘for’ survivors of rape, but it is not ‘of’ survivors of rape.

It has been a frustration of mine for many years that Rape Crisis offers individual counselling, pivotally important to me and many other survivors, but no network or group support for survivors to speak together.  I have asked individual counsellors why this is the case and I can’t really remember what they replied.  Maybe it was something along the lines, ‘people surviving rape want to keep their experience private’.

If rape survivors are denied a public space, a place in the public realm then our pain will continue to be individualised and privatised. The very reason we need counselling is because we cannot speak publically, our pariah status is reinforced.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why our support professionals need to congregate and and how effective they can be in placing the issue on the public arena and on the agenda of policy makers.

What irks me is that community development goals are not applied to the issue, those goals of empowering communities to find their own voice.  I do not speak for a community, I know one or two other women who have been raped but I do not speak for them, I am a single survivor trying to ‘voice’ my experience.

So what is it about rape survivors that we are not a community of interest?  Is it the same for survivors of domestic violence?

What I would ask of our sisters and brothers in the professional and public sphere is – are we to be forever confined to the status of ‘client’?, are we to be to be forever confined to the role of service user? Do we not have a role in the shaping of policy other than that of raw material –  like the politician needs the voter to become elected- is that our place in the rape survival sphere?

If the conference really wants to know what we want, I would argue that what I want is locally based networks of rape surviviors who, if they wish, can organise regional and national fora to influence public policy.  These local fora would be accessible, affordable and survivor led.  That is what I want – if anyone is interested.


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