Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is also the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gendered Violence. This year I again plan to blog each day of the campaign, focussing on sexual violence. Last year, I wrote about the impacts of sexual assault from my perspective, as a recent victim of sexual assault. This year, I want to focus on how we can prevent sexual violence, what each and every one of us can do in order to be a part of that act of prevention.
For me, the first and most vital step in moving towards prevention is the creation of a safe and supportive space for victims of sexual violence. What that means is that the one in 5 women and one in 20 men who are victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse can come forward and speak of what has happened to them, knowing that they will be heard, they will be believed and they will be supported in whatever way they need. A space in which they can feel able to tell their friends and families, their colleagues and workplaces, on their terms, as and when they decide. A space in which victims feel no shame about what has happened to them, only horror that a crime was committed against them. A space from which they can feel confident and assured about reporting the crime to the police and seeking justice. Exactly as you would if your car had been stolen.
It is only when we have created a culture of open, non-judgmental, caring support for victims of sexual violence that we will begin to be able to reduce the horrific prevalence of this crime. When we have a culture that enables and supports victims, while shaming perpetrators, then we will know we are on the path towards a better, safer, more equal society for everyone. Until then, we have much work to do. I hope that by the end of these 16 days, the way to build this space, what will be involved and how we can all be a part of creating it, will be clearer.