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Warning: this article may contain upsetting and triggering content.

With all the allegations emerging recently surrounding powerful public figures like Harvey Weinstein, sexual assault and rape have been pushed into the public eye and are sparking important conversations. Off the back of this, many survivors have felt empowered to take a stand and report what happened to them, because they know that people will finally listen, and believe them.

That’s the power of conversation. And as by talking more about rape we can empower victims and educate the masses, we should be tackling this difficult topic as much as we can. So let’s talk.

What does rape actually mean?

Rape is defined in the UK as the penetration with a penis of another person’s vagina, mouth, or anus without consent.

To understand rape, we have to understand consent. If someone says no or clearly doesn’t want to have sex but it happens anyway, or if sex happens despite them not being in a position to give consent i.e. they were out of it or sleeping, they haven’t consented, so it’s rape.

Consent is nothing to do with what someone may or may not be wearing, how suddenly they’ve changed their mind, or if they’ve said yes to sex with a certain person before. No means no, and whenever sex happens one time without consent, it’s rape. As Elizabeth’s testimony in Channel 5’s Raped: My Story proves, you can be raped on your wedding day. It’s never about relationship context, it’s about that particular consent, that specific time.

Rape isn’t as simple as someone violently forcing themselves onto someone else, leaving evidence in cuts and bruises – which is often why proving rape is pretty difficult in court. In many of the testimonies in Raped: My Story, the survivors describe how they felt totally powerless to physically resist their rapists. Some recalled feeling totally paralysed and numb with fear and others felt entirely overpowered and knew they could never break free. Just because someone isn’t physically struggling, doesn’t mean they have given consent.

Every year, an estimated 97,000 people are raped in Britain, yet an estimated 70% of those don’t report their rape. People leave rape unreported for all sorts of reasons. They may feel like they’ll be made to feel ashamed for what happened, or like they won’t be believed by the authorities, or like the whole thing was somehow their fault. But rape is NEVER the victim’s fault, and they should never have to feel like they’ll be the ones on trial in the place of their rapist.

Even when victims do report, their rapists aren’t often brought to justice. Of the 97,000 survivors of rape every year, only around 3% of rapes will result in a conviction. In Raped: My Story, only one of the 10 survivors achieved a guilty verdict in court. Clearly there are real holes in the system, and rapists are getting away with it. We have a long way to go until we achieve legal justice for victims of rape.

Things need to change, and since change can only come about by raising an issue repeatedly, we must continue to bring the important topic of rape to the table, instead of pushing it under the rug.

If you’ve been a victim of rape or sexual assault, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault, and that you’re not alone.

if you need to talk to someone, click here for useful services and helplines that can offer you support. Click here if you want to know more about how to go about reporting to the police.

Series 26 Episode 8

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