Guest post by Fern Champion: The government thinks it is doing enough to fund Rape Crisis centres. My story shows they are wrong.

I am honoured to host this guest post by Fern Champion. Fern is next week giving evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual Violence, speaking from her own experience about the widespread problems in accessing Rape Crisis centres. This is Fern’s story.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to do this. To tell my story and have it listened to. To engage with police, insurance companies, support services, employers, and friends across the globe.

I need to talk to the police” I said to the girl working on the reception of the hostel I was staying at in Kuala Lumpur, as I walked in clutching my bra in my hands.

“I’ve been raped” I said on the phone to the British Embassy Consulate the next day, after spending the last 24 hours either with the police or in hospital.

“I’ve missed my flight because when I should have been boarding, I was being examined by a surgeon” I said to my airline and travel insurance company.

I think I had my drink spiked and had to have a pregnancy test” I said to my friend who I sent various incomprehensible messages to the night before.

So here it is, one more time. My story, which really isn’t just my story.

On the 18th/early hours of the 19th July 2016, I was raped by a man whilst I was heavily intoxicated.  He first assaulted me whilst I was unconscious on his couch, and then he carried me to his bed where he forced his penis into my mouth, vagina and anus throughout the night, all while I was passing in and out of consciousness. Everytime I protested, he told me that he could “really fucking hurt me”. It wasn’t difficult to pin me down.

My assault occurred in Kuala Lumpur. I was 3 months in to my cliche ‘gap year’ and I had a series of flights booked the day after to get me to New Zealand, where I would be living for a year.

In August 2016, I arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, and met with the Wellington Rape Crisis. I was put in contact with them through the British Consulate Office in Kuala Lumpur, and they immediately put me on their waiting list for support and treatment.

I spent the next year trying to rebuild my life on the other side of the world, having arrived in New Zealand with 26p left of my overdraft. I spent a lot of that time working, though I got to travel too. I fought against my insurance company for six solid months, though eventually I won. I can’t make out that whole year was terrible, because it wasn’t. I got to live and work in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. I furthered my career, built lasting friendships and even got to work with the WRC on publishing a ‘Survival Guide’ for travellers who are assaulted overseas, but I had to do all that whilst processing what happened to me with no support. I spent the entirety of my year in New Zealand on Wellington Rape Crisis’ waiting list.

In August 2017, I arrived back in the UK and contacted both East and South London Rape Crisis centres but was told that I could not get onto the waiting list at either. In September I moved to Tooting and was told by SLRC to try again in January 2018. That month, I also contacted my local MP, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan to discuss the lack of access to support I have been facing since my attack over a year earlier and the impact that must be having on survivors all over the country. She wrote to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and asked what steps his Department is taking to provide support to survivors of sexual assault when services are over-subscribed. He replied that “allocations for Sexual Assault Referral Centres have increased this year”. She also asked the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, what he is doing to reduce general access times to rape crisis centres. He responded with “In 2017/18 the MoJ directly allocated around £7.2m as a contribution to 97 Rape Support Centres across England and Wales”

 And yet in March 2018, I was told once again that South London Rape Crisis waiting list remains closed.

This really isn’t just my story. In March 2017, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 646,000 of adults aged 16 to 59 experienced sexual assault in the previous 12 months. 2017/18 data published by Rape Crisis England and Wales shows that 78,461 individuals accessed Rape Crisis specialist services. The CSEW have not yet published their data for the same period but I think it can be safely assumed that the numbers will remain proportionately similar, meaning that nearly 88% of those sexually assaulted will not have accessed Rape Crisis specialist services. It’s going to take a lot to convince me that that 88% have been able to access support elsewhere, seeing as more and more services are having to shut down their waiting lists.

As such, 17 July 2018 is going to be a big day for me. Not only will it nearly be the two year anniversary since my attack, but I will also be addressing the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sexual Violence, who will be discussing the funding landscape for specialist sexual violence services.  Because I, and everybody else in that 88%, deserve answers.

Why should we be forced to wait months, if not years, on end for sustained support to help us process a trauma which was not our fault in the first place? Why should we endure ongoing nightmares or total emotional oblivion as we continue to sleepwalk through a world that continuously tells us it was our fault, with the knowledge that only 7% of our attackers will be convicted relentlessly pounding our skulls? I reported my attack as soon as I was safe. The police were provided with my medical report, clothes, access to CCTV footage of two different bars, witness statements which corroborated mine, GPS data of where my phone tracked me during the hours of my attack, and still my attacker was not caught. Why?

Why did they ask me what was I wearing? How much I’d had to drink? How many men I’ve previously slept with? Why I didn’t fight? Why I couldn’t remember the details of what happened when I was unconscious?

Why will they never get to ask my attacker why did you rape her?

This government, namely Jeremy Hunt and David Gauke, seem to think they have done enough to help women like me. I am here to tell them they are wrong because somehow, despite all of this, I am one of the lucky ones. In March this year, I was finally able to access support through my employer when I very rapidly crashed through rock bottom and found myself unable to go to work, or even leave the house. How many others in that 88% who have been unable to access Rape Crisis do you think can say the same? As a university educated, white female with a shiney corporate job in the city, I have been protected by a certain amount of privilege which has allowed me to get me to where I am today. What about everybody else? This government, like so many before them, is failing them all.

It has long been known that 1 in 5 women will be raped, or nearly raped in her lifetime. It is now abundantly clear that the vast majority of those women will not be able to access support services crucial to their recovery. Enough is enough. We all have a duty to fight this so I am asking you now, write/tweet/send an owl to your local MP and ask them if they will be attending the APPG on Sexual Violence on the 17 July. Ask them if they will hear my story and help me to create something positive from what has been an almighty shitshow of the last two years. Your MP will represent so many women with stories like mine, maybe even you yourself have a story like mine, so let those stories be heard.

Please don’t let me continue talking to an empty room.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Guest post by Fern Champion: The government thinks it is doing enough to fund Rape Crisis centres. My story shows they are wrong.

  1. To the Secret Barrister thank you for publishing this.
    To Fern Champion, this is so moving. Your evident courage is extraordinary and I wish you heartfelt good luck on 17 July. I will certainly email my local MP (and a few others) to tell them they should be there.

    Like

  2. Thank you for an excellent post, it must have been difficult to write certain parts. I had no idea services were so difficult to access. I hope you are well and thriving in your life, you are such a survivor and so brave.

    Like

  3. I have written to my MP. I was a volunteer and counsellor at the London Rape Crisis Centre in the 1970s. There was no waiting list and everybody got a service from us .

    Like

  4. Powerful story. Thank you for writing it and sharing. I had no idea there was such a lack of support. Keep working to right that for others.

    Like

  5. There was a ‘high profile’ rape case recently in N Ireland; the defendants were acquitted. There was considerable comment on social media afterwards. The Lord Chief Justice for N Ireland began discussions with Crown Court judges to consider what steps could be taken to improve things.

    The Criminal Review Board then commissioned an independent review of the arrangements to deliver justice in cases of serious sexual assault. The review is headed by Sir John Gillen, a retired High Court judge. The review will consider the “victim’s journey” from the initial complaint to the end of the court process. The review will consider what happens in other jurisdictions. The procedures in N Ireland are similar to those in England and Wales, but not identical; there are some differences in procedures in the Republic of Ireland. There is no devolved Executive or Assembly in N Ireland at present; there is no Justice or Health minister, so any proposed changes requiring legislation cannot be implemented.

    The Review can be found here:

    https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/review-arrangements-deliver-justice-serious-sexual-offence-cases-terms-reference

    with a link to the Terms of Reference, and a link to forward submissions by email. The postal address for submissions is:

    Gillen Review Team
    Level 6
    Great Victoria Street
    Belfast
    BT2 7AQ

    I would encourage all those with an interest or experience in cases of rape and serious sexual assault, either as a victim, or through support generally, to make a submission to the Review.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. > In March 2017, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 646,000 of adults aged 16 to 59 experienced sexual assault in the previous 12 months.

    “Sexual assaults measured by the CSEW cover rape or assault by penetration (including attempts), and indecent exposure or unwanted touching.” … “The term “sexual assault” in police recorded crime refers to one type of sexual offence, that is the sexual touching of a person without their consent. This differs from the CSEW term of “sexual assault”, which is used to describe all types of sexual offences measured by the survey. ”

    That is, the CSEW term “sexual assault” is not the same thing as the crime of sexual assault. The CSEW term is a grab-bag of anything that can possibly be included in the category, if you squint and read the word sideways, including “unwanted touching” (the onus being on the toucher to be telepathic). Of course, the 646,000 includes a great deal of genuine crime. But it doubtless includes a great deal of normal, non-criminal human interaction. What a pity they make little effort to distinguish between the two. But all those CCTV cameras have to be justified somehow.

    Like

  7. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “It has long been known that 1 in 5 women will be raped, or nearly raped in her lifetime. It is now abundantly clear that the vast majority of those women will not be able to access support services crucial to their recovery. Enough is enough. We all have a duty to fight this so I am asking you now, write/tweet/send an owl to your local MP and ask them if they will be attending the APPG on Sexual Violence on the 17 July. Ask them if they will hear my story and help me to create something positive from what has been an almighty shitshow of the last two years. Your MP will represent so many women with stories like mine, maybe even you yourself have a story like mine, so let those stories be heard.

    Please don’t let me continue talking to an empty room.”

    Like

  8. Fern I feel, hear and sense your pain.
    You are not only a Champion by name, but by nature.
    You are right.
    We get questioned and the predators get nothing.
    I was raped also at what was meant to be a work meeting with the TV cook Gino D’acampo.
    I was drugged, but totally knocked out so have no recollection of the act, but the emotional and physical scars and nightmares persist after 3 years.
    As with you they have the proof, lots of undeniable evidence, but the police don’t care. The CPS are limiting.
    It has changed me too. The only way I can see we can make a change is forget the pathetic system we live in and finance and instead establish real victim support groups for the victims by the victims. That is my goal. To locally give a platform for the silenced to get their voice back and share their horrors with one another; those that understand.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s