Women in Worcestershire Take a Stand
Content Warning: This article and the accounts linked include discussion of gendered violence.
Over the weeks succeeding the tragic events surrounding the death of Sarah Everard, many have asked what can we all do to ensure that our communities and spaces are safe for women. Difficult conversations about sexism, gendered violence and s*xual harassment are being had across the country, and Worcestershire is no different. In The First Time it Happened and the Worcestershire Women Movement, local women are taking a stand and are hoping to educate the general public on these vitally important issues. We spoke to both groups to find out more about their work.
What was the motivating factor behind setting up your group/Instagram page?
Worcestershire Women Movement: “Starting up a movement has always been something we’ve discussed between us because, as two females, we have always been very aware of us and our peers being subjected to s*xual violence from a very young age. Ultimately, what triggered us into turning these plans into reality was the recent negative response to the Sarah Everard case. We noticed that a surprising amount of people responded to it with invalidation, rather than educating themselves. In addition to this, the awful treatment of women and girls is still rife within our society and the overwhelming lack of support offered to survivors of s*xual harassment and violence has been another motivating factor for us.”
The First Time it Happened: “I was motivated to start this campaign after following the work of ‘whyididntreport’ on instagram. I felt that, following the death of Sarah Everard and the conversations it inspired, this was the perfect time to bring something similar to Worcester.”
What is the ultimate aim and goal of your group?
WWM: “Our overall aim is to be a peaceful group taking action towards s*xual violence and educating the community to elevate women’s voices. As part of this, our vision is to ultimately encourage change in the social structures that perpetuate, normalise and disregard the ongoing issue of s*xual violence and harassment.
Furthermore, we wanted to actively motivate changes that create a society where women and girls feel safe.
TFTIH: “The short term aim is to raise awareness and to give victims a space to talk. I want to show that s*xual harassment or assault can be inflicted by anybody upon anybody else. I want to destroy the stereotype of r*pe as a stranger in a dark alley, and publish the many ways in which consent can be violated. In the long term, I would like to use the account as a bank of evidence to take to local authorities. I want to insist upon an expert approved programme about consent that would be taught in the first year of secondary school—I hope that it would make people think twice about their actions, and would also give victims the language to vocalise their discomfort.”
Why is it so important that women have the spaces and platforms to discuss their experiences of gendered violence and s*xual harassment?
WWM: “Within our culture, we’ve noticed a profuse amount of negative media and response to such issues which can be hugely invalidating to survivors of harassment and violence. Thus, it’s important to provide a safe space where all women and girls feel included and taken seriously enough to speak on issues regarding gendered s*xual violence and harassment. We think it’s important to provide an inclusive environment to support these women in a situation where they often feel isolated. Not only this, but to educate others on the weight and impact of these issues on the individual.”
TFTIH: “The thing that has pleased me the most about this project is the amount of women and girls messaging me to tell me how much the space has helped them. It’s an outlet, a place to vent, and a sphere in which people can relate and remind themselves that they are not alone. I’ve been told by some that this is the first time they’ve ever discussed their trauma, and by others that this has helped their family and friendships greatly. I’ve also been told personally and anonymously by several boys that these experiences have finally made them wake up to the scale of the problems. It’s easy to dismiss statistics, but the range and enormity of these confessions proves how bad the issue is.”
Are you hopeful that the movements and protests currently mobilising around the issue of gendered violence can force the change needed to make our society safe for women?
WWM: “The movements ongoing around the country are vital, in everything they encompass, to instigate change. As a peaceful movement, we feel that we will be listened to if we are calmly educating and providing light on the situation. By doing so, we are hopeful that the correct changes will be made in order to create a safer society for women and girls. We place high value on standing together in solidarity to create these changes and we hope that, by providing a united front, we can grab the attention of those that are in positions of power to encourage big changes within the societal structure; a societal structure that ultimately does need transforming to enable for a dependable and healthy civilisation.”
TFTIH: “Yes of course. I do think, however, that regardless of how many women share their trauma, it is only men who can fix this problem. We have spoken out about s*xual assault for centuries, but in a patriarchal society it is those with the power that must instigate change. I want this account to be sent to the lads groupchat, to be brought up amongst friend groups, and to be shared by both genders. We need men to let other men know that none of this is okay.”
Please consider donating to the West Mercia R*pe and S*xual Abuse Support Centre.
Also, the Glade SARC provides a service to anyone who have experienced r*pe or s*xual assault. You can get more information on their website