Older women can still get raped – and the truth about other sexual assault myths
Funded by Comic Relief, Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland have developed special lockdown-friendly training courses which will help us all understand sexual violence a little better
By Becky Hardy
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales [CSEW], it is believed that around 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some form of sexual assault since the age of 16. That’s the equivalent of 3.4 million women and 631,000 men. Or here it is even more simply: one in five women have been sexually assaulted. This figure is only an estimation and can only ever be guessed at because of the decidedly disenchanting statistics associated with sexual violence and the criminal justice system.
Already perhaps the hardest crime to prosecute, in 2019/2020 only 1,439 suspects of rape were convicted – that’s less than half the number of convictions that there were three years ago and decidedly less than what the CSEW figures would indicate is needed. It has even been suggested that the decline in rape prosecutions may have deterred some police from submitting cases to the CPS for charging decisions. Together, these factors probably explain why only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence report it to the police. And so the vicious cycle continues.
But not if North East charity Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland [RCTN] have anything to do with it. COVID or no, their 40-year reputation for delivering engaging and informative training sessions across many of the region’s largest employers will continue throughout 2021, thanks to the charity having teamed up with Comic Relief to launch a new programme of online digital training.
Aimed at increasing our knowledge and understanding of sexual violence, as well as equipping us all to better support those who have experienced it, RCTN have developed two workshops: Adult Rape and Sexual Assault Awareness and Sexual Violence and Older Women Awareness. And they bust a lot of myths surrounding what we may have thought sexual violence was all about.
Mainly, as the title of the second of these courses suggests, that sexual violence is only a young woman’s problem. Using a powerful combination of real-life case studies alongside facts and figures, RCTN have worked hard to help more of us realise that sexual violence can happen at any age and in any situation, no matter how safe we may feel. In fact, around 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence – so sexual violence is far more of a betrayal of trust than a random case of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But far from trying to scare us – and the reality of sexual violence in the UK right now certainly is terrifying – RCTN are using these digital training courses to educate, hopefully to deter, but primarily to enable many more of us to offer much-need support to those who have experienced sexual violence.
Not that this is anything new for the charity. But the digital format of these most recent training courses will certainly allow for the easier amalgamation of audio-visual and written content – which promise to really hammer home how these issues affect all of us and how we can help. Plus, the training can be completed remotely, whenever is most convenient and fully in line with lockdown regulations.
‘We wanted to make sure the COVID-19 restrictions we were all having to live and work under didn’t paralyse our ability to offer and deliver the training we know people and organisations find so valuable,’ explains Sue Pearce MBE, CEO of RCTN.
‘Increasing general awareness of the issues surrounding rape and sexual violence is vital in order to help more survivors feel they can safely seek the support and help they need. These courses are designed to enable organisations of all sizes to promote greater understanding and awareness around this subject. This will help create an atmosphere where employees who have experienced sexual violence will feel safer in disclosing it, and their colleagues will be better prepared to offer the right support.’
After completing the course, participants will have a greater understanding of the prevalence, impact and societal context of rape and sexual assault. They will also understand the barriers which may make it difficult for someone to disclose their experience and seek support – and how those barriers can be overcome.
Because the foundations of RCTN are founded on belief. Their belief in women and girls. Their belief in listening to them when they speak. Their belief that sexual violence and rape culture is real and all too common – and that this culture leads women and girls to be undermined by myths and stigma. And their belief in the long-term impact sexual violence can have on those who experience it.
RCTN believe they can make a change and help us all to end sexual violence, once and for all. Now that, to us, sounds like something worth believing in.
The Adult Rape and Sexual Assault Awareness training course costs £35.99 per person and the Sexual Violence and Older Women Awareness training is £32.99 per person.