Power is a word we use often and not without due consideration. Power is the very thing that is taken from an individual when they are abused or assaulted. It is a deliberate act to strip them of agency over their minds, over their bodies. This is what we seek to restore tenfold when we provide our services. We help to return autonomy, build resilience, nurture self-care.
To mark International Women’s Day we held an event #PowerfulTogether where we celebrated all those who work for us, donate to us, campaign for us and beyond. Our speakers were a collection of remarkable individuals all part of making momentous change. We wanted to show that Violence Against Women and Girls is not simply a women’s issue, it is at the heart of our communities, and that when we work together we have the power to end it.
We also know the impact one worker can make to a woman’s case, what one small donation can do to help a family in crisis, and especially what one person’s story can do to create cultural and systemic change. Power is individual first and collective second.
Take Fern Champion our Ambassador as an example. After she was raped while travelling she tried to access Rape Crisis services in the UK and found them shut. ‘Luckily’ she was able to obtain private counselling through her employer. She could have stayed silent but instead she chose to acknowledge her privilege and advocate strongly on behalf of all the women who are suffering from lack of support. Fern has now petitioned the Prime Minister to commit to sustainable funding and her petition is now at almost 140,000 signatures – meaning it legally has to be debated in parliament.
Look at Eliza Hatch, the acclaimed photojournalist behind Cheer Up Luv – A global platform to speak out against sexual harassment. After experiencing it she started by simply asking her friends about their experiences of being catcalled, stalked, threatened or violated. When they responded "Which one of my 10 stories do you want to pick from?” she knew she had to do something. She began a project that now has started a national discussion of public safety for women in Sri Lanka, and has given women all over the world a powerful voice to shame those who dared harrass them.
Phoebe Loach is another individual who at just fourteen took to the stage at #PowerfulTogether and campaigned against those who joke about rape. She joined our Young People’s Hear2Change Programme that aims to change attitudes and behaviours around Violence Against Women and Girls in her community. She is projecting her voice to be part of the change, recognising that the language we use in popular discourse matters.
Luke & Ryan Hart are two brothers whose father murdered their sister and mother after subjecting the entire family to years of coercive and controlling behaviour. Since the tragic event both Luke & Ryan decided to dedicate themselves to sharing their story to raise awareness of domestic abuse. So far they have trained police officers, NHS personnel and legal professionals in the Crown Prosecution Service. They spoke at #PowerfulTogether to challenge the media’s portrayal of abusers ‘'The narratives that surround abuse need to change. This is not about anger or desire, these are calculated crimes based on belief systems of entitlement and control’.
Rose-Mary Harvey is a survivor and filmmaker behind the incredible production ‘Finding Solace’. The film was made by the survivors themselves as part of the Solace Women’s Resilience and Awareness Project in partnership with See Change Films. It documents the journey of a group of incredible women who learnt filmmaking skills as a way to speak out about the abuse they have faced. With candid intimacy, they discuss a subject that is often underreported, working together to rediscover themselves and find solace. Rose spoke with such conviction about how we need to reframe these archaic notions of attacks on women as natural desire. 'Rape is not sex, it is a violent act. We shouldn't even put them in the same sentence. This is not about feelings of desire, this is domination and control.' Rose makes clear she does not let what happened to her define her, she believes in speaking out and using her experience to educate others so that future harm can be prevented.
These determined individuals are all mirrors of our own potential to use our power for the greater good . For some it was a first-hand experience that led them to speaking out, for others it was the agony of watching others close to them suffer, or the rising indignation that this issue is so widespread and yet so often ignored. If you have an idea to make a change – enact it. If you have funds to rebuild a life, donate them. If you have a story to share, we are listening. Never discount the difference just one act can make. You are powerful.