Most people don’t think that they will need to use our services in their lifetime and when they do need our support it is most often at a point of crisis. Survivors of sexual violence too often have to rely on their own strength and resilience to cope with the harm that has been caused to them by perpetrators and through institutional responses.
When survivors come to us for support we believe it is their right to access on-going, holistic support from the point of referral, when they need and want it most. We currently, like most services supporting survivors, can’t offer them the support they are entitled to straight away because there are waiting lists for our services.
In a society where public and third sector organisations are stretched beyond capacity waiting lists have become common place but until we are faced with the reality of being on one most of us don’t really know what it feels like to wait. A survivor who has now accessed our support and advocacy services recently spoke to us about how it felt to wait for 6 months for her support;
“I had referred myself to the service and was pleased to have the initial support but I was disappointed I had to wait. During that time my mental health was breaking down. I tried the NHS but they couldn’t help and they just told me to take tablets but I knew I wanted to speak to someone. I didn’t feel like a person when they were doing that to me. I felt quite hopeless.
It was a weird combination of being hopeful I would be listened to but still feeling lost. My mental health was in a really bad way and I thought I wouldn’t survive the wait.
I remember getting the phone call from my support worker to say support was beginning and feeling a massive weight off my shoulders. It gave me something to think about and hang onto cause everything else had fallen to bits. I felt like I wasn’t living a life whilst I was waiting. I was just existing and then suddenly someone was listening and eager to hear from me.”
We do our best to support the people on our waiting lists through crisis appointments and drop-ins and the national Rape Crisis Scotland helpline is open every night from 6pm until midnight so survivors have somewhere to call. The number for the national helpline is 08088 01 03 02.
When you come to us we will understand how unfair and difficult it can feel to have to wait. All our workers are committed to making the wait as easy as possible and within the confines of limited resources will always strive to do the best we can to support you when you most need us. Most of the survivors who are referred to our services stay in touch whilst on the waiting list and eventually do access our support. But we know that healing should begin the day you are ready and that every extra day of waiting is a failing in our society and unnecessarily cruel.
We are committed to campaigning, fundraising and acting on feedback from people using our services to end waiting lists for survivors because we believe they deserve better. In light of increased confidence in reporting and the advent of movements such as #metoo it is essential to remember that a disclosure is most often the first step in a survivor’s healing not the last.
If you would also like to see an end to waiting lists here are 5 ways you can help:
1) Keep an eye on Local Authority Budget Consultations.
Most Local Authorities will now carry out some form of public consultation when they are setting their budget. Often cuts to frontline services will be included in the options that are consulted on. As sexual violence is an abuse of power and control the people that most use our services are those who are likely to have least power in society. Cuts to services like ours have the biggest impact on women, LGBTQI people and young people. There are already considerable access barriers to using our services for disabled women, BME women and women with no recourse to public funds and cuts to our services and resources only make it harder to address these barriers. Waiting lists in particular make it difficult to respond to survivors in the ways and at the times that best meet their needs and ensure their safety.
Local Authorities are required to carry out Equality Impact Assessments of all budgeting decisions to ensure that oppressed and minority groups are not hit worst by the cuts. Responding in these consultations affords councillors the information they need to understand the impact of their decision making.
Clackmannanshire Council are currently consulting on cuts to women’s service including Forth Valley Rape Crisis. You can still respond to the consultation until tomorrow here: https://clackmannanshire.citizenspace.com/communications-department/budget-consultation-2018-19/
2) Get in touch with your local councillors, MSPs and MPs
If you’re as angry as we are about survivors having to wait for services let the people with the power to change things know. The more community representatives know about the realities of waiting times for services the more likely they are to do something to help us end them.
If you are a survivor currently on our waiting list for support and would like our support to make your voice heard by local representatives we are able to support you with this. We also regularly collect feedback and use it to inform our own consultation responses regarding changes to funding because we know that survivors know best what they need from services.
3) Donate to our service
Even with our current level of public funding we are unable to meet the demand for our services. We rely on the generous donations of individuals to keep our waiting times at a minimum. You can donate to our service here: https://donate.justgiving.com/donation-amount?uri=aHR0cHM6Ly9kb25hdGUtYXBpLmp1c3RnaXZpbmcuY29tL2FwaS9kb25hdGlvbnMvYTAxZjQ5NWVjN2MwNDlmZGE5MDYzZWYwY2FjYjdlYTE=
4) Access our training
Survivors tell us that positive responses from multiple agencies help them to cope better when they need support. Whether navigating the benefits system or going for a night out survivors appreciate knowing there are people in the world who know how to respond to disclosures and support survivors without judgement. We have a number of training courses that increase knowledge, understand and skills in responding to sexual violence and survivors. You can see a full list of our training options here: https://www.forthvalleyrapecrisis.org.uk/training/
5) Read up on how to be supportive of survivors
Survivors using our services tell us that they really value when other people in their lives respond in a supportive way to their experiences. The Rape Crisis Scotland website has lots of resources that help people to understand the impact of sexual violence. Some of our resources are for friends/family, parents and partners: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/publications/?cat=9
Reading resources that help us to understand what survivors are experiencing and learn helpful ways to respond make it easier for us all to be supportive of survivors when they most need it.
Clackmannanshire Council are currently carrying out a community consultation on the budget for 2018/19. The council has recognised that the level of savings they are now required to make by law to balance their budget can no longer be made without them having an adverse impact on the community and people living in it.
One of the options being considered is a re-design of women’s crisis services in the hope of saving £20,000 a year. This is an amount that exceeds our current Clackmannanshire Council contract. The crisis services being referred to here are our service (Forth Valley Rape Crisis Centre) and Clackmannanshire Women’s Aid.
At a time where the capacity of our service is stretched by both a lack of resources and an ever increasing demand for our service we do not believe it is possible to cut anymore funding from women’s services without it resulting in serious harm for survivors in Clackmannanshire. As a feminist organisation we support people of all genders. Whilst this is framed as a cut to women’s services (as women would be most adversely impacted as a percentage of the population) it would threaten the support of all survivors of sexual violence living in Clackmannanshire.
Clackmannanshire council has funded FVRCC since it was founded in 2016 and without continued funding from Clackmannanshire Council our centre could face closure.
We know that being able to access our services is an essential part of many survivors healing and it is our responsibility to ensure the voices of people using our services are heard in the consultation process.
Here a survivor living in Clackmannanshire explains in her own words what our service has meant to her.
The Council wants to hear from local people about the impact these cuts might have. We would greatly appreciate the support of all local people who value our service in responding to the consultation.
This can be done here:
On International Human Rights Day Forth Valley Rape Crisis would like to express our full support of all of the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and encourage all those committed to the advancement of human rights to respond to the on-going Equal Recognition consultation.
As a movement, Rape Crisis have always fought against the rigid gender stereotyping that each of us experience, which is rooted in patriarchal notions of gender as binary. Alternatively, we advocate that everyone should be able to express themselves in the way in which feels reflective of their individual identity and not that which is ascribed to us by society.
As a feminist organisation working to eradicate sexual violence it is essential to oppose the abuse of power over people of marginalised gender identity at both an individual and institutional level. The current process of legally changing gender targets trans people and their right to autonomy over their own lives, identity and bodies. It makes medical diagnosis a necessary requirement and in doing so affords power to state institutions and professionals within the private and personal lives of trans people.
By requiring a psychiatric report which states they have been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, the state is pathologising trans people and violates their right to privacy and self-determination. There is still significant stigma of trans identities within our society and, as a result, there are many barriers trans people face in being open about their identities. This process forces people to give up their relative rights in order to gain legal recognition of their identity, a process which makes you consider the reality for those who do not gain this through the current system.
The current process of legally changing gender requires trans people to be ‘living’ in their ‘acquired gender’ for a period of two years prior and to provide evidence of this. The two year period that requires trans people to live in their acquired gender while legally recognising them otherwise invites situations where they are forced to be out and as a result, exposed to an increased risk of sexual violence often in the form of ‘hate crime’. Hate crime perpetrated against trans people consistently takes the form of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Forth Valley Rape Crisis are hopeful the legislation will be reformed and believe that the rights and safety of trans people will be greatly improved and as a result.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept…” - Angela Y. Davis
In his autumn statement in 2015, George Osborne states that poorer families should be more responsible when considering how many children they have. Not only is this ill-informed and discriminatory, it has been proved in other countries which have implemented a similar cap on the number of children a family have, this has not led to a reduction in the number of children in low income families, but results in a higher number of children experiencing poverty at the hands of the state.
The Child Tax Credit reform disproportionately affects minority and disadvantaged groups within our society, plunging women and their children into poverty without consideration for their access to resources, beliefs around reproduction and contraception, and experiences of abuse.
Since 2010, 86% of cuts have come from the pockets of women, highlighting a clear ideological attack on women’s rights. By reducing women’s access to financial resources, their opportunities to flee abuse or provide for their families are severely limited. This is not an acceptable outcome in any circumstance and we condemn any measures with this result. We want to support women and feel that the best way we can do this is to challenge this policy rather than participate in it. We cannot see how this policy can be justified or implemented as it discriminates against numerous intersections of our society, perpetuates rape myths and we have been given no information about how this will be implemented. The UK Government has stated that there would be no pressure on women to report sexual violence to the police, but with the lack of clarity on how this information will be handled, we cannot be certain that there won’t be any negative outcomes from this process.
Forth Valley Rape Crisis will continue to campaign to eradicate the Child Tax Credit reform. We are an organisation built on fighting oppression and we will not collude in this policy or any other policies which set us back in our aims.
The current UK Government have implemented this policy, but the Scottish Parliament have been overwhelmingly critical of the reform and claimed that this will not be carried out in Scotland. We welcome the support of all those who continue to resist this discriminatory and harmful policy.
Forth Valley Rape Crisis
Forth Valley Rape Crisis is a new centre which offers support to people of all genders who have been affected by sexual violence at any point in their life. In addition to the support we offer, we also work with other agencies to improve the response to those who are affected by and who perpetrate sexual violence. We view sexual violence as gender-based violence, that is, an act which results in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering which a person experiences as a result of their gender. We acknowledge that, although many of the effects of sexual violence are similar, these will be experienced differently by everyone with regards to the many identities that inhabit, such as sex and gender, race, social class, sexuality etc.
We would like to take this opportunity to state our commitment to and solidarity with all trans women. We are aware of the recent dialogue surrounding trans women and the denial of their identity and existence. Forth Valley Rape Crisis understand that trans women are women. Research identifies high levels of abuse including sexualised violence, fear and lack of support and understanding for people who identify as transgender or trans*. At a time when transphobic hate crimes reported to the police have soared, we believe that it is dangerous and discriminatory for feminists to debate the inclusion of trans* women within the feminist movement. Forth Valley Rape Crisis will ensure that the needs of all trans* people are respected and fully integrated into service delivery and that we can support potential/appointed trans women who volunteer and are employed to fully participate in the feminist movement. We are committed to offering awareness raising and training to staff and volunteers on best practice in providing inclusive services for transgendered people and all survivors.
Much of the dialogue around the trans* community in recent years has been around the importance of language and the ways in which a variety of groups will adopt/dismiss this. At Forth Valley Rape Crisis, we believe that groups in our society, whether this be along the lines of gender, race, class, dis/ability etc., experience privilege or discrimination depending on their position within these. We live in a patriarchal society where gender is organised into a binary system and, within which, all women are oppressed. People within the transgender community are often viewed as not 'fitting in' to this binary and are subjected to a great deal of violence and abuse as a result. With this in mind, it is our view that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth experience privilege which is often referred to as cisgender privilege. This does not detract from the sexism that trans and cis women within our society face, but we believe that these two ideas can coexist and that they intersect in a way that means trans women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.
While we acknowledge that it is important to consider the inner workings of the feminist movement, we challenge this dominating the work that we do instead of focusing on those who perpetrate sexual violence and violence against women. And when we do critically reflect on our work, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t perpetuate transphobia or hate speech. Forth Valley Rape Crisis believe that we should make an alliance on the prevention of violence and injustice, and create a movement which allows this to be a safe place for all women and allies to do so. Anything that detracts from this is part of the problem and sees activists become tools of the patriarchal system.
This International Women’s Day, we are reminding ourselves that feminism is a challenge to male-dominated power structures and that we confront this with all of our sisters.