Campaign brings shocking scale of sexual violence to light


Nina Lakhani
Wednesday 14 March 2012 01:00

Revelations about the shocking scale of sexual violence against women and girls have triggered an impassioned debate on Twitter, with hundreds of women sharing personal stories about shame, guilt and the fear of not being believed.

The microblogging site has been inundated with moving disclosures trending under the #Ididnotreport. The posts support the findings of the Mumsnet research, published by The Independent on Monday that the vast majority of victims do not report the crimes to authorities and many are too ashamed to tell anyone at all. Post after post reveals victims who say they stayed silent because of fears about not being believed or being blamed. Mumsnet's week-long "We believe you" campaign hopes to raise awareness about the extent of the violence in order to help dismiss persistent myths which often prevent many victims seeking justice and support.

The Mumsnet survey of 1,600 women found one in 10 had been raped and one in three sexually assaulted. Just over 80 per cent did not tell the police and 29 per cent had told nobody. The survey also revealed that 70 per cent feel the media is unsympathetic to women who report rape. During a live webchat on Mumsnet yesterday, Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, said both the CPS and police had now been trained to focus "only on the facts". "Myths and stereo types have bedevilled rape cases for far too long and they are by very definition deeply entrenched and hard to shift, but the campaign will help us and others to confront them," he said.

"We, the CPS, have taken a very hard line on myths and stereotypes ... As for false reporting, this is in fact very rare indeed and a very, very small percentage of the rape allegations made, fall into this category."

Katie Russell from Rape Crisis, which is backing the Mumsnet campaign, said: "Many of the women we see in our centres are adult survivors who have never told a soul about abuse that happened many years ago, seeking support for the first time. This has struck a cord with people and we hope more people will now feel safe or confident enough to access some support."

Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, said: "The posts on Twitter are people making their own contribution to the campaign. They are mostly heartbreaking, but it has given people the chance to get things off their chest."