Friday, 5 February 2016

Time To Talk

This week has been both Mental Health Awareness Week and Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Week. It's an interesting but quite fitting coincidence considering the amount of mental health issues that arise as an after-affect of being on the receiving end of sexual violence/abuse. If you've been reading this blog, you'll know I'm a rape survivor and I struggle with mental health issues as a result of sexual violence and other non-sexual abuse issues I've experienced throughout my life. I have anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I'm also autistic.

It's not very possible to describe how life is day to day because one day is very different from the next. Some days I can be relatively calm and function almost normally. I can get up from bed, take my medication and go about my day ready to tackle the world. Other days I can barely see a point in leaving my bed out of sheer fear for what might happen. Little things like putting the oven on to cook dinner or getting dressed can be extremely daunting. Certain activities that most would find really mundane e.g. signing on at the job centre can be quite draining and I have to retreat back to my residence in order to unwind. Unexpected noises are sometimes really distressing especially sirens, honking horns, fast passing trains and loud building work. I depend on wearing headphones and listening to music when I'm out alone so I can listen to a noise I can control and still be able to pay attention to what's going on around me.

Social interactions are a mental minefield of me trying to appear fine when inside I'm unsure of what to say. I get so anxious when out that I get super reluctant to let people buy me drinks for fear I'll be spiked once again. Being around strangers is a nightmare. If I'm with a group of people and only know a couple of people, I cling to them for dear life to feel safe. In order to cope at comic cons, I have to prepare myself the week before and keep myself busy during the weekend so my brain hasn't enough time to overthink.

It doesn't get much better in the night. I am a very light sleeper and am very prone to waking up more than once in the middle of the night because of a strange sound. I struggle with flashbacks of the rapes and sexual assaults which creep up a lot in the night. I can wake up either sweating and trying to catch my breath or in a phased, numb state akin to being zombified. When I first started dating my now-partner, it took a while before I could sleep in the same bed as him without feeling anxious despite the fact I know he wouldn't attack me. I've struggled with sex and whilst I'm quite comfortable in my relationship, it doesn't stop me having moments of excruiating pain during sex or becoming overwhelmed and needing to stop.

This is just an overview but I feel it's important to tell. Many know that rape is illegal. Many know it's wrong although some are very quick to blame the victim rather than the attacker. Not a lot of people actually stop to think about how we as survivors have to deal with our mental health afterwards. There's a giant stigma around being a rape survivor and there's still a stigma around having mental health issues so we're in a very stigmatised place. I wish to end that stigma in my own way by being honest about my own struggles and to begin a proper dialogue in the hopes that support services for survivors get proper funding and support. I want the stigma to end so that others like me can get proper help and lead lives without fear.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Roosh V Is Not A Man.

In my mission to try and raise awareness of sexual assault & rape and heal from my own experiences, I am overwhelmed by the support I receive from both men and women whether they're survivors or otherwise. It's a great thing for us all to unite against the people who perpetuate rape culture and help people who need our help. I want to highlight the problematic factions that want to oppress women.

One of them is Daryush "Roosh V" Valizadeh. You may have heard of him before - he runs the reprehensible Return Of Kings website and his own personal blog website under his known name Roosh V. I'm not linking either of them because I don't wish to send over more traffic to their sites although feel free to go to their websites if you absolutely want to. He is known as a pick-up artist who actively teaches men to sexually harass women in order to seduce them. He has gone as far as to suggest that the only way to stop rape is to make rape legal. Don't believe me? Go to an article he wrote called How To Stop Rape. He advocates the legalisation of rape on private property. Needless to say he uses a lot of misogynistic rhetoric to promote his ideas and, astonishingly, make money from either desperate or deeply misogynistic men.

As a summary he and his followers believe:

  • Women deserve to be raped
  • Women ask for it due to the way they dress and/or behave
  • Women deserve to go through sexual violence in order for a man to satisfy his desires

Suffice to say, it's absolutely disgusting. A friend of mine compared him to our Stone Age ancestors but another friend pointed out that that's an insult to them. Roosh V and his supports don't see women as property - they see them as prey. I am potential prey. So is any female member of my family. So are all my female friends. So are all your female friends, your female members of your family. If you're a woman, they see you as prey. This man is a predator grooming other predators. Their inadequacies with women and inability to seduce one through the normal, legal means has turned them into dangerous, vile beings. The things Roosh V teaches at his seminars are hate speech and his promotion for sexual violence against women is monstrous. They wish to harm women for the sake of their own self-gratification. It's mentally disturbing.

As a survivor, I've come across my fair share of people who've been nasty to me because of what I've been through. I've seen people try to excuse rapists (including the ones who raped me) and blame the survivor for "provoking" the attacker. A part of me was shocked that someone like Roosh V can exist and gain a following. It's an insult to me not only as a survivor but as a woman. I am a human being. I should be able to live my life without fear of being attacked because a guy thinks he deserves to enact his desires on me whether I consent or not. I deserve safety and protection. Every woman does. We are not objects to be used as mere cum buckets for men who don't care for anything except getting what they want when they want. My boyfriend wouldn't think of treating me or anyone else in that way. My brothers would never treat anyone in their lives that way. They are real men. Roosh V and his supporters are not.

Whilst I debate whether or not I go to any protests of his seminars in the UK, I absolutely recommend if you wish to see him banned from the UK to sign the petitions going around for that purpose. I want everyone to share this post and get the word out about this sort of rhetoric and how just one survivor feels.

My advice for the supporters of Roosh V - you wish to commit a violent crime against someone else for the sake of your own desires. There's something very wrong with that. You are not on a mission to reclaim masculinity and free men. You are on a destructive path that'll only lead to misery and the annihilation of mankind. Please go get psychological help to resolve your problems.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

White Ribbon Day: The Fight Continues

Today is White Ribbon Day, otherwise known as UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.The problem of violence against women is so bad that the UN has recognised it as such and have dedicated a day for it to try and promote eliminating it. Perhaps with that and Prime Minister David Cameron's remarks in March 2015 saying that sexual exploitation was 'a national threat' and should be treated by police on the same scale as terrorism and organised crime, maybe the United Kingdom will have plentiful services with solid funding for male and female survivors who need help? Unfortunately that's not the case.

As reported today in the Telegraph, 42% of the charity Rape Crisis's 46 member organisations have no funding confirmed beyond March 2016. This isn't the only charity at risk. The charity Eaves - which helped UK victims of trafficking, prostitution and sexual violence - announced it was to fold on 30th October. Mankind, a male domestic abuse charity, only have confirmed funding until January 2016.

Rape Crisis centres provide specialised support to women and girls who've experienced sexual abuse. Their services range from the immediate crisis to long-term support. They tailor their services to what the service user wants/needs for however long they need it for whether it's a period of weeks, months or years. It takes a while to recieve their services: their demand is so high that one can be on their waiting list for months. Despite that, the services they do provide is invaluable and saves lives. I would know because I was a service user. Rape Crisis saved my life a few years ago and I was able to make progress in ways I never thought were imaginable. That might not sound like much but to me it means the world. It made the difference and brought me to the stage that I actually seek to achieve my dreams and create a life I'm happy with. The idea that people struggle to get access is awful to begin with but the solution isn't to close them down. Money needs to flow straight to them.

Now some people may be asking why money should go to charities like Rape Crisis and charities like them. Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped every year. 1 in 5 women experience sexual violence from the age of 16. Only 15% of rape survivors decide to go to the Police and over 90% of the survivors know their perpetrators prior to the attack(s). Over 50,000 individuals received ongoing services from Rape Crisis which is an increase in 50% over the past 2 years and it's only rising. Continue to take those services away and what do we get? Thousands of men and women who are in an emotional shit storm with nowhere they feel is safe to go. That in itself is a crime.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Fundraising at Valentines

Whilst I accumulate teams for my nerd quiz night, I want to start getting the ball rolling on the biggest of my future fundraising plans thus far: an evening do of entertainment! The night will be an Over 18s night and tickets will be available to buy on the door.

The general plan is that I will host a soiree of sorts with performances and chances at winning prizes whilst refreshments are served by drink servers. There's no set location just yet - I would love to have it either in Reading or in London. The date is set for Saturday 13th February so this will be a great night for any couples wishing to mix celebrating Valentines with donating to a fantastic cause. Statistically, violence against women increase around Valentines so to mark this with a fundraising night is one way to fight it.

So what will this night offer? Nothing is set in stone but here are things that I am thinking of running:
  1. Name the Teddy - before the evening entertainment kicks off, you can pay a small price to pick a name for a teddy bear. During the show, a name will be picked at random. The person who picks the winning name keeps the teddy bear. Every penny raised will go to Rape Crisis.
  2. Magic Show
  3. Jewelry Auction - beautiful pieces of jewelry donated by small businesses will be auctioned off with every penny going to Rape Crisis
  4. Raffle - buy a ticket before the entertainment starts and maybe you'll win a prize! There'll be three prizes up for grabs. Winners will be announced during the show. Every penny from the raffle ticket sales will go to Rape Crisis.
  5. Lip sync competition - six people will battle it out in a contest to see whose the best lip sync-er. People wishing to enter must enter before the night itself with information on what music they wish to compete with.

Of course, none of this is possible alone. I would love to hear from anyone who can do any of the following:
  1. Serve refreshments and food
  2. Compete in the lip sync contest
  3. Any small-business owners wishing to donate merchandise to raffle off for charity.
  4. Any performers who are willing to entertain whether it's music, magic tricks, dance etc.
  5. Technical people who can help with lighting/sound
  6. Anyone who can assist in finding a suitable location

Do get in touch with me through this blog or message me personally if you know me. For more information on what Rape Crisis does, please check out their website!

Lots of love and solidarity. Always <3 XXX

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Nerd Quiz Night

I managed to get myself into the fundraising gear and I can properly announce that I will be doing a Nerd Quiz night!

Teams of up to 4 will go head-to-head to win the title of Champion Nerds! There'll be a variety of topics including film, tv & comics. I will be filming the event as a memento of the event but also hopefully as a fundraising guide for anyone else who wishes to do the same thing.

It'll only cost a team £5 to enter which they pay on the contest day. Water provided free, tea & coffee will be provided at 10p each and there will be cake for sale. All proceeds will be donated to Rape Crisis.

When? Saturday 14th November 2015 at 7pm.
Where? All Saints Church Hall, 14 Downshire Square, Reading , RG1 6NH

If you're interested in competing, please let me know by either commenting here. If you know me personally, do get in touch with me directly.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Fundraising Mission Resumed!

I had ambitions for my 2015 fundraising hopes. I still do although due to some quite major changes in my life, it's had to take a back seat so I can sort myself out and get things back on track. Now that I'm a lot more sorted, I can get the ball properly rolling.

The first thing I'm going to tackle is the Quiz Night. I've set a preliminary date for Saturday 14th November 2015 in the evening in Reading. I don't have a set venue yet but once I do it shall be shortly announced. I am looking for teams of 4 to compete for a small prize and the satisfaction of victory. To enter, the teams must put up an entry fee of £5 which will go directly to the charity.

The second thing to sort is the suitcase. Here's the recap: I will be getting well-known people I may meet at conventions to sign this suitcase. I'll ask their permission first and ensure they have information should they wish to inquire any further into my fundraising efforts.  Once the suitcase is full of signatures, I shall auction it off and however much it goes for, 100% of the money will go straight to Rape Crisis. I can't guarantee it'll be full by 2015 but it'll at least start.

Last but by no means least - an evening do! My original plan may well alter somewhat but the general plan is to have a soiree evening of sorts with entertainment, food, a charity auction and fun for adults! If you can dance, do magic tricks, do stand-up comedy, perform music or simply want to entertain please do get in touch with me. Because time is relatively short between now and the end of the year, it won't occur in 2015. I've decided to hit hard with my message by setting this evening around Valentines Day - likely Friday 12th or Saturday 13th February as a lot of sexual violence occurs around this time. As before, announcements will be made as and when more details come to light.

Any more ideas, you may ask? Perhaps but that'll all come in time :) If you do come up with any ideas, do get in touch. I'm always keen for input.

I'm incredibly grateful for the support I have received so far in my quest to change the way we treat sexual violence and to raise money for a charity like Rape Crisis that do such good for women in England & Wales. With dwindling funds and an increase in demand for support, it's now more important than ever to help.

Lots of love and solidarity <3 XXX

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A 14 month (and 1 day) retrospective

14 months ago yesterday I shaved off all of my hair to raise money for Rape Crisis.  

I suppose it's natural for me to be reflective. So much has happened and it would be unwise to never think about the impact. Whilst the effects of the sexual violence I've endured are still ever present and discussion of it and other issues are the point of this blog, I want to use this piece to talk about the past year.

One of the biggest developments over the past year is my psychotherapy treatment. I attended weekly therapy sessions for just under 6 months, talking to a psychotherapist about not just the fact I've been raped but everything else including my pregnancy, my emotionally abusive & estranged father, the constant bullying at school throughout my time in education including the sexual assaults etc. I had some idea it would be tough but I couldn't imagine how much it would challenge me but also how positively it would change things. I had an empathetic, professional therapist who allowed me to express myself but challenged me to really get to my emotional core and truly feel in a safe environment. In that safe space I finally acknowledged that I had been raped more than once by different people. I dealt with that information and was able to process it without downward spiralling into total despair. Therapy helped me in a massive way and whilst I'm still struggling with trauma, I'm far better than I ever was. I truly took on that I did, I do and I will deserve far better than those monsters. 

Another massive change between then and now is my personal life. I've dated and seen people casually albeit they all ended in rather unfortunate ways. Now I'm dating the kind of person I never thought I would end up with. Someone empathetic, kind & funny who also has no issue challenging me when I need it. My issues with intimacy are still there but they have improved significantly. He's a great part of my life and I feel ever fortunate. It's also worth noting that whilst most of the friends I had then are still friends now, I've also managed to meet some incredible people who've provided support for me creatively that has reinvigorated my drive to create. 

I'm not 100%. I still have very dark days and I have a long way to go. I will require further therapy and mental health treatment but I'm definitely going in the right direction.