CW: mentions of violence against women, personal account of rape, forensic medical examinations, trauma.
When my court case was dropped, my appeal failed and my rapist walked free, it was more than just devastation I had to deal with. Since then I’ve carried with me a profound and cavernous sense of grief I know not how to shake off.
After two years of intrusive interviews, internal exams, long periods of police silence and soaring anxiety, I was denied the burial I needed to move on from.
The sense of injustice remains just as palpable to me as the day it slipped from my officer’s mouth. The words fell into her lap as she sat on my couch, face downcast, staring at her knees. Slow and heavy, they hit me like a fist to the gut. And yet there they were. And there they remain. A fist to the gut. Just as palpable.
I haul this dead loss with me everywhere I go, through every new job, every new relationship. Endlessly, I look for a place to put it to rest, but I find nothing. Life rolls on. I feel the same.
So imagine the fire ignited in me when I realised there was legislation on Britain’s doorstep that would put the wellbeing of survivors like me first, not that of our perpetrators. And then the escalating anger that came from understanding that, like so many other women’s rights issues, it too had been swept under the UK Government’s carpet.
The Istanbul Convention (IC) is a sophisticated piece of legislation that outlines a survivor-focused approach to prosecution, ensures the adequate funding of women’s services and the strategic implementation of prevention of violence against women in all forms – be it female genital mutilation (FGM), rape, domestic violence, or so-called honour-based violence.
It is comprehensive, it is effective, and it is designed by women – absolute experts in law, trauma, therapy and justice – for women. As such, we – the survivors, service workers and allies that make up IC Change – will not rest until it is properly passed into law.
David Cameron actually signed a pledge to see the Istanbul Convention made law back in 2012. Now, as we near the end of 2017, after the harassment scandal of Westminster and the viral impact of the #metoo movement, the need for the Istanbul Convention is increasingly critical. Not least because there are some great strategies Parliament could very well use to tackle the culture of misogyny it seems to be so confused about dealing with.
Earlier this month, thanks to the law we, together with former MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, passed in April this year, the first ever public government report into the progression of the Istanbul Convention was issued on time and by the deadline. Yet, despite promises made by Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and overwhelming cross-party support, it showed little of the advancement it deserves. It was not good enough, and we demand to see more.
We must continue to hold the UK Government to account for this. We must continue to be heard. We must continue to fight – as a very real, very human 51 per cent of the United Kingdom – to be protected from harm and respected as equals. And as ever, we look to Scotland to help us achieve this goal.
Scotland as a nation has already made great strides towards the advancement of gender equality in Britain, not least for its very vocal campaigning against the rape clause, the two-child tax credit limit and, let us not forget, the furthering of the Istanbul Convention through the work of MPs such as and Gavin Newlands and former MP Dr Whiteford.
But there is more that needs to be done – and we need Scotland’s help to do it.
Support us, support our cause, and make sure IC Change remain an ever-present force in Parliament to be reckoned with. Sign our petition, follow us on Twitter, and support us as we continue to campaign to see this battle, one of so many thousands of women, finally ended. We all deserve to see the injustice of gender-based violence buried for good, and if we can do it in the next few years, it will, at the very least, make the suffering I have felt that little bit more bearable.
– Jen Selby, IC Change
Scottish Women’s Aid are proud to have worked with many organisations to support the progression of the Istanbul Convention, including Engender and Women’s Aid Federations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.