Sunday Blog 14, 28th November 2021
Here’s a warning – this post talks about violence against women. If this is not what you want to think about just now, please take care of yourself and scroll on.
As part of my day job, I was invited to a roundtable to create a new strategy for the prevention of violence against women. It felt quite frustrating because no matter how well thought-through that policy may be, the end result is a document. Creating a policy is a bit like creating a diet plan you intend to follow but it’s certainly not actually lost weight. It is only the potential or promise of losing weight. And we all know how difficult it is to lose and keep weight off.
Policy feels like an alternative to doing something that would make real change for women. Like politicians or even Prime Ministers wearing white ribbons and simultaneously de-funding women’s refuges.
I want to create an alternative to our current system where the gaps between police, victim support, health and justice services are reduced from yawning chasms to small, easily navigable steps. Where reporting an assault doesn’t mean agreeing to put yourself into a legal blender and be pulverized in the hope of an outcome that sees justice served and possibly safety for other women.
I may or may not have made a bit of a pest of myself throughout the session, suggesting that a policy might not be as important as an action plan of the many past recommendations from Inquiries that are yet to be implemented (a bit like those retained kilos.) I don’t consider these insights on gaps in the system and trauma by the justice system to be new revelations, or in any way unknown to policymakers and funders. It’s hard for me to see why action can’t happen right now.
Throughout the morning I insisted on how important it is to ensure people with lived experience are involved every step of the way of new policies and services. That we are at the decision-making table and shape the service from the inside out as true, equal partners. To highlight that the answer to every problem is not necessarily a service run by professionals with qualifications (learned experience) but also programs and initiatives run by those who have survived and have practical insights, and who embody a message of the hope of post-traumatic growth (lived experience).
What was so wonderful for me that morning was spotting the woman who has been working on the Young Women Against Sexual Violence initiative. Getting introduced, exchanging cards. Losing her card and finding it again a week later.
It’s nearly twenty years since I survived this experience and seven years since I self-published my memoir on the topic. I have since posted a copy of my book to her. We’re going to start to meet up. I may not be invited back to the next government policy conversation but at least I can re-connect with the grassroots work happening right now to support women.