April was sexual assault awareness month. The month was designed to raise visibility and awareness about the realities and prevalence of sexual assault – while combating rape myths and victim-blaming.
What, you may ask, has a stationery store got to do with sexual violence? Two things in my mind, 1. We have a public voice and therefore a responsibility, and 2. We believe in the power of written words.
I knew nothing about NZ’s sexual assault statistics. I knew it was bad but the realities, unfortunately, blew me away. The biggest two for me; only 9% of incidents are reported to the police and of those, only 13% result in a conviction.
Let that sink in for a minute. 100 people are raped: 9 rapes are reported, 1 results in a conviction. 100 people raped, 1 person in trouble.
If someone sexually assaulted me, I feel like I would not stop until I saw a conviction. But if the reality is only 13% of reported sexual offenders are convicted – what a whole lot of shit to go through to see your attacker walk free, back to their predatorial behaviour and onto ruining someone else’s life. And how heartbreaking to feel like the crime that happened to you wasn’t ‘bad enough’ to have consequences. No doubt this is the reality of many of you reading this.
We held a small event as part of our support for the month At our event, someone spoke who had recently been raped. She told her story, it could have been any of ours.
She had recently lost her husband and had joined a widows and widowers support group. To get support, she arranged to have a coffee with one of the other members. They met and chatted in the open environment of the café. After a sudden onset of illness she struggled to leave, but managed to get in her car and drive away. He had drugged her tea as she sat drinking with him, discussing her loss. He followed her home and attacked her, pushing her into her garage violently - out of sight.
He left. She lay on the floor crying.
Even after a devastating blow when she was already down, she decided she wouldn’t let him get away and contacted the police, who, with care and grace, let her know just how hard obtaining a conviction can be. After investigating, the police had to inform her that it was likely she wouldn’t have enough evidence to ‘win’.
She told us she wished she'd never said a thing.
So, for April we asked our customers to write to survivors of sexual assault. We want survivors to know this: “I see you. I hear you. What happened was not your fault. You’re not alone and I’m not afraid to be seen and fight alongside you.” The letters were placed outside Pepa, on the walls of the very supportive Arts Centre. They’re still up, so if that is you please anonymously read the comforting and encouraging messages from the general public.
Sexual violence thrives when its not being talked about. This conversation needs to be on repeat. Survivors need to be supported so they can speak up. The more cases being reported the more chance there is of conviction.
- 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 16
- 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault as an adult
- Only 9% of incidents are reported to police
- 13% of cases recorded by the Police result in conviction
If you have any ideas on what we can / should do with all of these messages of please let me know. I’d love for them to continue to have an impact.
If you or anyone you know needs help, call Safe to Talk anytime on 0800 044 334