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The caged bird sings

This is a space where you can hear different voices; our staff and volunteers who have kept the Centre going over the last 40 years, our friends, colleagues and supporters from across the violence against women sector, and people who have used our services and want to share their experiences.

A Letter

This month, I wrote an open letter to the leader of Glasgow City Council. In the letter (below) I laid out the case for increased funding for the Rape Crisis Centre in Glasgow. We work with a comprehensive database so I was able to show quite clearly the number of survivors we provide services to, the number of calls, texts and emails we dealt with last year, the diversity of our client group and the complexity of issues we deal with. I was also able to show that although we provide services to six local authority areas across the West of Scotland, 65% of our service user come from Glasgow city.

This letter was first published in the Student Advertiser and was then picked up by the Evening Times which published an article on Friday 16th September and, of course, asked Glasgow City Council to respond. Their response was

“Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre has a very important role in supporting those affected by sexual violence against women. Despite a huge reduction in the Council’s overall budget in recent years, we have continued to fund the centre at previous levels. The Centre is able to draw on other sources of funding and is one of the many providers supported by the Council that addresses violence against women.

“The Council remains fully committed to tackling gender based violence, abuse and exploitation.”

What wasn’t in that news article was the work we do that so often remains hidden. We’ve tried to make this work more visible by blogging about ‘A Day in the Life’ of the Centre, and by posting on our social media, but that has its restrictions. We can’t relate the experiences women bring to us because fundamental to our work is the confidentiality of our service users. I cannot make the reader feel the anger that I feel when thirteen year olds come to our centre in their school uniforms to see the support workers from our young women’s project. But I’m also glad that they are being supported by well-trained, skilled practitioners who share a body of expertise we’ve built up over the past 40 years.

What wasn’t in that article was the experiences of women we see every day: women in the asylum process who have been raped in their country of origin or in transit to the UK, who may have been trafficked, who may have been imprisoned and tortured, and who cannot even begin to work through their trauma because they are battling daily to keep their place of relative safety here in Glasgow. There was no mention of the self-harm, the suicide attempts, the poor mental health, medication and hospitalisation that women tell us about or that a major achievement for a woman may be that she can get on a bus, come into town and attend her support appointment.

What the article didn’t show was the contribution from our volunteers that we recruit, train and support year on year and who almost exclusively staff our telephone helpline. In the year 2015/16 our staff and volunteers contributed over £50,000 in unpaid hours to the work of the Rape Crisis Centre.

“Another Week at the Coal Face ….”

By Isabelle Kerr, Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre Manager

On Monday 5th September 2016 on my way into work I bumped into a couple of workers from another women’s organisation in our building.

“Hi Isabelle, how are you?” said one.

“Fine,” I replied.

“Another week at the coal face, eh?” she said

“As long as there’s plenty of caffeine to get us through it,” I said.

And indeed it was another week right at the coal face for Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre.

Monday 5th September

We’re at Stage 2 of a Big Lottery bid to expand our service so we can meet the ever increasing demand for support. Almost done now with our tweaking and re-tweaking so getting very nervous. This is my priority for early week.

It’s hard to keep a focus with the doorbell constantly buzzing as women arrive for appointments and the phones ring continually. It’s our Scottish Women’s Rights Centre surgery today so we’re even busier than usual (if that is actually possible).

At 12 o’clock I meet with Superintendent John McKenzie at Police Scotland's JohnMcKPublic Protection Unit in G Division in Glasgow. Our Support to Report Project works closely with the Divisional Rape Investigation Unit so we’re often in touch with officers. John is being interviewed by STV on Tuesday for a news piece they have filmed about the Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre’s 40th Anniversary, talking about how things have changed for survivors over the past 40 years.

A Ruby project service user

The Ruby project is a Glasgow Rape Crisis service that offers support to women and girls aged 13 and over who have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, whether it happened in the UK or in another Rubycountry. Regardless of immigration status or whether a woman has access to public finds, we offer culturally sensitive face to face support and we can provide a female interpreter if that is needed. We also have an independent sexual violence advocacy worker available who works specifically with asylum and refugee women on practical issues.This blog is written by a Ruby project service user and for her safety we have removed words that might identify her.

Hello, this is my first blog and I’m quite new to this, so apologies in advance if I don’t follow proper blogging etiquette. So… Hi everyone. I guess I should begin by stating the obvious about myself which is I am a human. Before I digress about the various labels society has thrust upon me over my lifetime, I felt that I should re-emphasise that, that my real label is a human being. Because in the grand scheme of things, in the blanket of universal truths, or in the presence of a higher power bigger than us, this world and this universe, that is the only label that rings true and it is the only label that matters, that I am a human. I guess saying that makes me sound like I’m very old and I’ve lived a lifetime. Well I’m not really old, but I do feel like I’ve lived a lifetime.

When I was a kid I loved fairy tales, and not just fairy tales but all kinds of stories, fiction, classics, super heroes, anything that involved magic. Magic was my dream, my life, my hope. These stories always had a common theme, someone down on their luck, who’s lost all hope and suddenly… they’re rescued by magic. Perhaps I loved these stories because I could see myself in the characters, or because they gave me a kind of hope or because I simply enjoyed the pleasure of literature. In any case, they did give me a kind of hope and even if it was hope in magic, nonetheless it was hope and that hope kept me alive. It kept alive my innocence, my light, my belief in people, that goodness in you which is so untarnished which every human being must have. I think that might have been my first label, “a child” and in ****** where I grew up, “child” is just a euphemism for “someone’s property”. Inside my house, my real role was that of a punching bag, my label was just “guilty”. What I was actually guilty of, I used to think about it over and over again back then and I still think about it even now. Truth is I’ll never know. Whether I was guilty of being a girl, or guilty of just being born or because I was another living reminder of why my parents could not escape their marriage, I’ll never know. I was guilty for a number of reasons, but for now I want to talk about being guilty because I was a girl, specifically a girl in ******. When people hear “girl in ******”, they often think Forced Marriage. People often see Forced Marriage as something that happens to a girl who is barely almost grown up, but the actual process of Forced Marriage begins much younger than that.

Friends & Family Support: Louise's Story

My name is Louise; I am the mother of a 14-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by my ex-partner. This was discovered by me when I found videos of my daughters abuse on a family i-Phone he used to film what he was doing. After I discovered the videos I immediately called the police. He was then arrested by the police and I was taken to the police station to give a lengthy statement and was told my daughter would be appointed a social worker.

I don’t feel like my daughter got enough support. She was only contacted once by the social worker and I was contacted twice. On the second occasion it was only to tell me I was deemed a responsible parent and my daughter no longer needed social work assistance. They did not take in to account the emotional trauma my daughter and I were going through and how we did not have the skills to cope with this. I felt social work were of no help to me at all regarding the situation and no help whatsoever to my daughter. I felt like they just wanted to walk away and leave me to deal with it all on my own. I didn’t know what to do, no parent expects to have to deal with something like this.

Just where is ‘A Woman’s Place'?

A Woman's Place badgeBy Isabelle Kerr

Back in the 1980s I had a badge that read “A Woman’s Place is Every Place”. We were revolutionaries, steeped in the struggle. We weren’t getting back into that kitchen, that was for sure. No siree. We had a world to change …..

Fast forward 30 plus years and my “A Woman’s Place is Every Place” badge came to mind this week as a number of things happened almost all at once. As we were enjoying a beautiful May bank holiday weekend, I read an excellent blog in the Huffington Post by a woman called Gretchen Kelly. Her piece The Things All Women Do That You Don’t Know About’ highlighted the many strategies women use to make ourselves invisible to the everyday harassment and sexism we experience. The comments, touching, ‘jokes’ and ‘banter’, the groping that we’re all supposed to happily accept because it’s ‘just a joke’ and it’s a compliment and if we can’t just laugh it off then we’re probably feminists and definitely lesbians and anyway who would want an ugly bitch like us …. you get the picture I’m sure because how often has it happened to you?

I posted the link to Kelly’s blog on Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre’s Facebook page because it’s so relevant, so much part of the continuum of violence and abuse that is invisible to men who don’t experience it, but all too evident, as research suggests, that most women have in their time.

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