19th November 2013
A NORTH-EAST charity is calling for more to be done to dispel myths around sexual and domestic abuse ahead of the international Eliminate Violence Against Women Day on Monday November 25.
Figures from 2010 showed more than 160,000 women living in the North-East have experienced domestic abuse and almost 150,000 have suffered sexual assault.
Since then, The Centre – a rape and sexual abuse counselling centre covering Darlington and County Durham – has seen demand increase by 100 per cent.
Despite this, many cases of rape and sexual abuse still go unreported.
The Centre’s CEO spoke out today in a bid to dispel myths and encourage victims to access the support they deserve.
There are many complex reasons victims do not report their experiences, according to Lynne Hinde. For example, whilst high-profile cases like the one involving Jimmy Savile have led to more victims seeking help, they have also worked to perpetuate damaging myths.
Ms Hinde said: “Although they help to create a climate where people feel safer coming forward, they create an archetypical abuser and suggest an abuser looks like Jimmy Savile, that there’s always been something strange about them.
“In fact, people are most at risk from people they know and trust.”
A victim-blaming culture is also problematic.
Ms Hinde said: “Most of the myths are about blaming victims and telling them they’re in some way responsible for what happened.
“There’s a strong belief that if someone dresses a particular way she’s sexually available but women are entitled to wear anything without being blamed if something happens.
“There are also issues around alcohol consumption. Having a drink doesn’t mean you’re then available for sex.
“If a woman is assaulted when drunk, there’s a chance she might not seek help because she may feel she’s to blame.
“These things also create the unrealistic expectation that if you behave in a certain way and don’t do certain things, then you’ll be safe but that’s not the case.”
She added: “It’s important for victims to realise there’s support out there and we’re not here to judge.
“The message has to be really clear. The victim is not to blame for what happens to them.”
The Centre offers free, confidential and non-judgemental support for women over-13. To contact them, call 01325 369933 or visit rsacc-thecentre.org.uk.