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16 Days Of Activism And Holding On To Hope

For most of us hope is not a word that we would strongly associate with 2020 and yet never has it been so important that we look for it and where it does appear, we hold onto it tightly.

But hope alone is not enough. It must be partnered with action, accountability and underpinned by a belief that change is possible. For the women who fought before us and for all those who will follow, we have to hold firm in our belief that the injustices and inequalities that run throughout our society are not inevitable and – with hope and perseverance – will end.

This year has been unlike no other in living memory and in amongst the grief, pain and tragedy there are inspiring stories of resistance and meaningful change. What we have also seen is the power of collective action.

It shouldn’t take a pandemic for Government to try to make sure that no-one is sleeping on the streets, it shouldn’t take the tragic murder of yet another black person by a police officer for societies to be mobilised to condemn Police brutality and declare that Black Lives Matter. It shouldn’t require the courage of one young survivor in Shetland campaigning under #WisToo for remote Scotland and our isles to recognise that abuse is something that cuts across all of our communities and something we must stand together against. Critically we must make sure that as time passes and the conversation moves forward, no one is left behind.

It is often the hardest times that we see the best of people and communities, and although we know that change is certain, the direction of that change is not. Social change is shaped by those who choose to believe that there is hope of a better world, and those who graft to make it a reality.

Just before the first lockdown in March more than 100 people took to the baltic sea in Lossiemouth at sunrise to raise money for the newest Rape Crisis Centre in Moray. Piped to the shore in nothing but swimsuits and smiles they came together as a community against sexual violence and in support of specialist services.

We may not be able meet at the sea in numbers aplenty but we want to recognise the incredible work of local Rape Crisis Centres and the National Helpline who have adapted at speed to try and make sure that every survivor has somewhere to turn.

From the rapid development of online support to the new helpline text service, as a movement we have risen to many of the challenges posed by Covid-19. Despite challenges around access in just one day in Scotland local services supported 503 survivors, with more than 2200 being supported on an ongoing basis.

But the harsh reality is, demand has never been higher and on this same day more than 1300 people were on a waiting list to access Rape Crisis support. In some places survivors might be waiting up to a year. We don’t believe any survivor should have to wait to access life-saving Rape Crisis support and welcome funding recently secured from the Scottish Government has enabled us to make tackling waiting lists an absolute priority. But it’s also a reminder for all of us that we can never be complacent about how common sexual violence in our communities and the need for all of us to stand unequivocal in our support for those who have been subject to it.

As the annual 16 Days of Action begins, we pay tribute to the strength and resilience of survivors and services navigating an exceptionally challenging period in time. We remember all those who have not made it this far, in particular who have lost their lives to male violence, and we pledge to persevere with hope and a firm belief that change is possible.

Swimmers stand united at the shores of Lossiemouth

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