Sexual Violence Awareness Week

This year, Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland (RCTN) turns 40. In 2016/17, demand for RCTN’s helpline and email support services grew by 63% and 45%, respectively. These figures demonstrate how vital the services offered by RCTN are, 40 years on.

In the UK, a staggering 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped every year. This, coupled with the fact that one in three women have experienced some form of sexual assault at some point in their lifetime, further proves how crucial Rape Crisis as a charity is, not only to our region, but to the UK as a whole.

RCTN provides free, safe, professional support and information for women and girls over the age of 13 who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their lives. As it is Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, we thought it fitting to talk in more depth about the impact the voluntary sector has on those who have experienced abuse or violence, both recently and historically.

According to a Government report into sexual assault services, at present, Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) are the typical model of service provision for victims of sexual violence in England. The majority of referrals to SARCs, however, are through local police. Only around 15% of victims choose to report to the police, and so the voluntary sector has been instrumental in supplementing traditional models of service provision.

Louise Martell*, a sexual assault survivor and activist, agrees: “RCTN plugs a really important gap in bolstering and supplementing support from centrally commissioned services.” For Louise, the fact that RCTN always believes women is monumental. “To have the support of an empowering group in a place where you know you are going to be believed is the most powerful thing,” she says.

The services that RCTN offer through their two centres, Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre (TRCC) and Grace Northumberland Rape Crisis (GNRC), go hand-in-hand with campaigns such as £40k for 40 and Shout-Up! “You need both,” Louise agrees. “You need strong services that cater for what people need in a sensitive and appropriate manner, but also the cultural awareness and education element.”

Shout-Up! – a campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the night-time economy – launched in Ouseburn late last year to great success. Ambassador venues were given free bystander intervention training by Dawn Bowman, a community engagement worker at RCTN, aimed at placing the onus on us all, and empowering venue staff to ‘shout up’ if they witness sexual violence. “Sexual violence is everyone’s issue,” Louise agrees, “We all have an obligation to shout up.”

£40k for 40 is a year-long programme of fundraising events, with the ultimate aim of raising £40,000 to aid RCTN in continuing the vital work offered to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence.

“It’s a big achievement that a voluntary sector organisation [RCTN] is 40 years old and has made such a massive impact in the local area,” Louise concludes. “Campaigns such as £40k for 40 and Shout-Up! are crucial and the approach that has been taken is great.”

>> Read more about £40,000 for 40; our aim to raise £40,000 in our 40th year

>> Read more about Shout-Up! our partnership with Safe Newcastle to stop sexual harassment in bars, pubs and clubs 

*names have been changed to protect individuals