I firmly believe that a woman is the expert in her own life. Being told what to do, how to recover, how to ‘move on’ won’t work. She needs to be the one to be in control of what happens next. She needs friends, family and professionals to help her to regain power and control in her life. After all, that’s exactly what’s been taken away from her.

So during this ‘Sexual Violence Awareness Week’, i wanted to share with you 6 key points which i have learnt:

1. We should never get used to the trauma experienced by women who have been raped and who have experienced sexual violence. So many brave women have written personal testimonies and I recommend you grit your teeth and read some of them, just to understand how a sense of self, dignity and all the protective layers we build up around ourselves can be stripped away in a matter of minutes. Rape rips away the power and control you have over your own life.

2. The Criminal Justice System is not fit for purpose in its treatment of women who have been raped. I have been told time and again how women are re-traumatised by having to tell and retell their story. How the burden of proof is on them and how they are stripped, again, of their dignity.

3. As things stand, women can’t have any in-depth therapy before their trial in case the defence accuses the survivor of being coached, and so therapy could in essence jeopardise the trial. This means that the survivor is left without the therapy which will allow her to process her trauma and allow her to begin to move on. To me, this itself seems criminal.

4. Just like domestic abuse, society persists in placing the burden of shame on the victim. It’s not their fault. No one asks to be abused or raped. No woman has ever wanted to lose control of her own life and not be believed by most of the rest of the world. If we could just remove the shame and embarrassment women feel after being abused or raped, a huge weight would be lifted and recovery – although still very difficult – would have one key element removed.

5. Sometimes recovery is about surviving, day by day. Trauma is hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it yourself and it’s crucial that professionals and friends learn how it affects victims. The work we do is trauma-informed and this means that we integrate our understanding of trauma into all aspects of our work with women to help her take the steps she needs to move towards her future. Recovery isn’t one-size-fits all: it looks different for each woman.

6. We have an obligation to educate the next generation: there is a glut of research telling us how much sexual harassment is proliferating on campus, and it’s imperative that our young people are taught about consent, respect and combatting toxic masculinity. We need to ensure that young people are not learning about sex and relationships through porn. They need to know how to signpost and support themselves and each other.

It's nearly one year since Jewish Women’s Aid established The Dina Service – a sexual violence service for Jewish women, which runs alongside our established and accredited domestic abuse service. The Dina Service is supported by Comic Relief.
For more information on this or any of our services, please visit: jwa.org.uk