A CHARITY is launching a campaign today highlighting the real words of women it has supported in the North-East to stamp out some of the common and damaging myths about rape and sexual violence.

The Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre (RSACC) which provides expert support including a helpline and counselling to survivors across Darlington and County Durham is sharing the quotes to mark the start of a global UN campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence”, starting today.

The charity, part of the national Rape Crisis network, says the reinforcement of myths about rape in society is leading to victim-blaming, the trivalisation of sex crimes and unjust feelings of shame for survivors.

Isabel Owens, deputy CEO of RSACC, said; “Women so often tell us that they didn’t ‘fight off’ their perpetrator, they had consumed alcohol or they ‘flirted with him’ and end up blaming themselves for sexual assault, harassment or violence committed against them. The only people responsible are the perpetrators themselves.

“We believe that everyone has the right to sexuality without violence. If a woman hasn’t freely given consent then sexual activity is a crime. This is the case regardless of her body language, if she has been drinking or if she’s previously had consensual sex with this man. A few examples of the common reasons survivors are not believed or taken seriously.

“We hope that by sharing the real words of women from Darlington and Country Durham, we will help to challenge these damaging attitudes which effectively normalise sexual violence. These represent a tiny handful of the hundreds of women we support each year and demand is sadly rising significantly, so much so that we have a waiting list of over 200 equating to waiting times of six to nine months.

“This year’s UN campaign against Gender Based Violence is themed around standing against rape, so we wanted to use the 16 days of action to open up this really important conversation.”

The campaign comes as RSACC launches its new website and three year strategy which will take forward its mission to end sexual violence by supporting and empowering women and girls in Darlington and Country Durham.

RSACC, an accredited Rape Crisis centre supported more than 800 people last year, half of whom accessed free counselling from trained experts to help them deal with the trauma and long-term effects of rape and sexual assault.

Isabel added; “As we look ahead to our 30th anniversary next year, we will be actively campaigning to ensure survivors are listened to and influence a change to the current systems which so often victimize women. There will be lots of opportunities for our supporters and partners to get involved.”

RSACC offers support to any woman or girl who needs to talk about rape or sexual assault. Support includes a helpline, online chat support, specialist counselling and women-only groups for survivors of sexual violence including mindfulness.

For more information about RSACC visit rsacc-thecentre.org.uk/ or call 01325-354119.