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Standing up for rape crisis services

It’s hard to describe the feeling of waking up to a flurry of notifications on Twitter claiming Rape Crisis to be protecting abusive men when our very existence is to support and improve responses to survivors of sexual violence.

Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.

We at Rape Crisis are no strangers to debate; we spend much of our time advocating for change in a society that still jokes about rape, a country where sexual comments are thrown out of passing cars at girls as young as seven as they walk home from school. But this isn’t business as usual, and as conversations around the Gender Recognition Act become increasingly worrying, let us set something straight.

Every single day local Rape Crisis centres work tirelessly across Scotland with survivors of rape, child sexual abuse and sexual assault, providing trauma-informed, specialist support. Advocacy workers help survivors to navigate a complex justice system, skilfully guiding them through a process that some survivors have described as being worse than the trauma itself. Our Helpline team of staff and volunteers provide a lifeline, picking up the phone every single night to people, some of whom have never told another being what they have been through. Prevention workers take our message to schools, working with incredible young people to transform attitudes to sexual violence and gender inequality, working together to build a future that is equal and safe. As a movement we know where we stand, always in the corner of survivors.

It is no exaggeration to say that the work of Rape Crisis staff and volunteers saves lives. We hear it often: “without Rape Crisis, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Yet, against a backdrop of increasing demand that can translate to sometimes lengthy waiting lists for our services, the debate in question isn’t what in our view it should be: how do we push for the change that survivors of sexual violence need and deserve to see? Instead, there are some who prefer to suggest that local services work to protect abusive men, and others who step in to defend us. This isn’t the debate we should be having.

Our stance on trans-inclusion is clear, and based on more than a decade of experience in providing trans-inclusive services without issue or complaint. We have come to a view that in this climate nothing can or will be progressed through a bubble of Twitter feuds and fallings out. But we cannot stand by as vital local services as safe places for survivors of sexual violence to turn are called into question. We are incredibly disappointed to see these accusations being given legitimacy by elected representatives who have not sought to engage directly with us on these issues.

As people called #TimesUp on abuses of power we received unprecedented support and felt hopeful that the tide was turning. From where we stand now it looks like the calm before the storm.

If there was ever a time to stand up for and stand by your local Rape Crisis service it is now.

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