Men in skirts, including a couple of Roman Soldiers, were out on the streets and in city centre pubs, tonight (Thurs) with a simple but serious message. Roman Robert Foulkes said that : ” We’re putting the onus on the fact that just wearing a short skirt doesn’t mean that anyone has any right or entitlement to sexually assault you. The simple message is don’t go around raping anyone, its not a hard thing to do!
Ali, centre manager at CSASS (Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service) based in The Bluecoat school told me that “the idea of tonight is, there’s still a lot of victim blaming going around which basically say, “girls don’t drink, always go out with your friend, dont wear short skirts” With CSASS we like to turn that on his head and say its not about victim blaming, its about the perpetrators. We’re giving out beermats with some top tips on how to stop rape, which are all for the perpetrators, not for the women . We have some lovely men in short skirts. The message is very simple, short skirts don’t cause rape, rapists do.”
Volunteer coordinator at CSASS, Mary : “It’s fab to get some energy around this message! This campaign started in other countries and its great to get it going in Chester on a dark November night. ..
CSASS is a registered charity which was founded in the mid 1990s. Initially run by a team of volunteers in 2010 the charity received some funding for two part time staff. CSASS gives free and unlimited counselling to anyone over the age of 18, men or women that has suffered sexual abuse, historic or recent. ” We also have a telephone hotline that is open on a Monday and Wednesday evening. We have a counselling room, we have lots of qualified and insured volunteer counsellors.” says Mary. Services are also open to the family and friends, partners etc of survivors of sexual abuse.
“I think a great think about our service is we are developing more aspects to our support, so more informal based support. We had a great creative night recently where survivors could talk about there journeys together in a relaxed environment. The theme was “Silence isn’t always golden”. Everyone used their creative genius to create anything around that theme. We went out and hit Chester Pride, just getting the voice out and making people aware. Just starting conversations around sexual abuse, its a very hard conversation to start.”
Ali says that although historically CSASS has been discrete as a charity, with discrete provision of services, they are aiming for a higher profile in the future. “Silence helps the perpetrators. We’re looking for creative ways, using music art and writing to get the message across. We’re always interested in creative people getting involved.”
The work of CSASS is especially valuable with news that almost half of UK Rape crisis centres are at risk of closure due to lack of funding. Also this week Chester marked White Ribbon Day with a show of support on the town hall steps. The White Ribbon campaign seeks to highlight and condemn domestic abuse, with Cheshire Police revealing that on average two women a week are killed by a partner or ex partner.
Reflecting on the evening, volunteer Lauren Walker said that response from the public was very positive and great for raising awareness of the issue : ” It was definitely a conversation starter. We had comments like ” ‘Really glad there’s people out there who are making the world a better place’..” but that “the boys got wolf whistled which highlighted the problem even more.”
With thanks to the team at CSASS for highlighting this important issue.
CSASS support line open Mon/Wed 6-8 is 0808 2840484
For support and info during office hours call 01244 307499