I posted yesterday about women who find it difficult to believe that they had been raped, and since then other women have come forward to say that they too have been remembering incidents that they had pushed to the back of their minds.
I have been thinking of moments in my life, that I had put down to a bad decision, which I now can see differently. I was not raped, but I was coerced into doing more than I felt comfortable doing.
The women confiding in me were talking about incidents that happened in their teens or early twenties. They are older and more experienced now and are able to look back and say, “That was rape” or “That was abuse,” and they realise that no one warned them.
We concentrate on telling our children not to go with strangers, we warn of the bogey man and the weirdo in the grubby trenchcoat, but we do not warn them of a danger far more common.
Teenagers should be taught about consent, about rape, about controlling behaviour and how to recognise it. About healthy relationships. This must be a part of the national school curriculum, taught in all schools throughout the land.
THE RIGHT TO SAY NO
If you, at any time during a sexual encounter, feel uncomfortable or uneasy, you have the right to say STOP. You can call a halt. It does not make you a tease. It makes you a responsible young adult. Sex can be wonderful with the right partner, when both are enthusiastic participants. Don’t agree to sex because you feel you have to, because you think the other person will like you better, because everyone else is doing it. Have sex when you really want to have sex.
The only way to be really truly sure that your sexual partner wants to have sex is to ask. Never assume consent, alway always check that the person you are with is enjoying themselves as much as you are. If your partner is unusually silent or unresponsive, check that they are still happy to proceed. If your partner expresses doubt, then STOP. Do not try to persuade them, coerce them, change their mind. If they only have sex with you because they felt pressured into it, they will regret it later. And so will you.
Do you have someone in your life who makes you feel worthless? Who berates you and belittles you in front of your friends? Were they always like this? Or were they attentive and kind when you met them. They wanted to spend all their time with you, monopolised you and then slowly cut you off from your friends. Perhaps they sought to make you financially dependent on them, or bought you unwanted gifts that made you feel beholden to them. It happened gradually, this isolation, so gradually that you did not notice it. There are many many red flags to help you recognise when a relationship – be it sexual or a friendship – is a healthy one.
Mumsnet and the EVAW coalition are campaigning to raise awareness of the need for teenagers to be taught more than just the bare bones of Sex Ed in UK. If we only teach our children biology of reproduction, then we miss the opportunity to protect them from abuse.
I asked on Twitter earlier about this, and Rape Crisis London answered: … we give workshops in schools on what enthusiastic consent is. Can be quite hard to get schools to engage.
Mumsnet and the EVAW coalition has a plan of action to encourage more schools to engage.
Take Action – what you can do
Shamefully, preventing sexual violence before it begins has long been the weakest part of the Government’s approach. Schools often fail to embed prevention work systematically across the curriculum and school policies.
The Home Office’s current teen sexual violence campaign is excellent and targets boys’ attitudes and behaviour, but such campaigns have usually been ad-hoc and short term, or left to the voluntary sector. The Department for Education is even relying on Facebook to promote the Home Office campaign, rather than telling schools directly.
Many of my blog readers are parents. We are the ones who need to put pressure on our schools and on our politicians to improve the current situation. Please get in touch with your school, email the PM, pass this message on to others.
If you have been affected by sexual violence of any kind we can help you.
All our centres offer a safe and non-judgmental environment where you can talk freely and confidentially.
Rape Crisis Centres provide a telephone helpline service for women and girls who are survivors of rape, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment or any form of sexual violence.
You can contact any of the help lines to talk to someone and they will support you in finding out what is available in your area. Please be aware that most lines are only staffed at certain times of the week due to limited resources.
Or you can call the national helpline to speak to someone and find out where your nearest centre is.
Call us in confidence:
Freephone 0808 802 99 99 – lines open 12n-2.30pm /7pm-9.30 every day
Rape Crisis Scotland provides a national rape crisis helpline andemail support for anyone affected by sexual violence, no matter when or how it happened. The helpline is open from 6pm to midnight, 7 days a week, and offers free and confidential initial and crisis support and information. The helpline can also put you in touch with local rape crisis centres or other services for ongoing support. The helpline offers a mincom service for deaf or hard of hearing people, and can arrange for language interpreters if your first language is not English.