As someone who works closely with survivors of rape and sexual abuse I do a lot of research and follow a lot of news stories around the subject. I want to stay as up to date as possible when it comes to how best to support our clients…well really I want to stay ahead so I know what is coming and what might bring someone’s past experience into their awareness. With the festive season right here in front of us, we are in one of the most difficult times of the year for some people who have been affected by rape or sexual abuse. This is a time where everyone is expected to be full of happy smiles and Christmas cheer, when in reality that might be extremely far away from how a survivor may actually be feeling.
There are many survivors of rape and sexual abuse who don’t see their families, which can make this time of year even more difficult because there is a big emphasis on family life. It could be the effects of disclosure that has caused communication difficulties, the abuse may have happened within the family and sometimes this can impact on the family relationship. A recent survey by the charity Stand Alone and the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge found that 90% of people who were estranged from their families found that Christmas was the most difficult time of year. Stand Alone have a useful guide for coping with Christmas for anyone who is estranged from their family.
There is a certain theme that runs through the festive period that no one can deny…alcohol! There is a lot of pressure for people to drink more during this time of year and as alcohol has a depressant effect on the body this can really impact on people who are already feeling low. Some people may also use alcohol as a coping mechanism and the emphasis on drinking at this time of year can make it more difficult to manage their alcohol use. Dr Nigel Campbell gives some strategies for people who want to avoid or control their alcohol use this Christmas.
Alcohol also gets talked about at this time of year as a factor in how rape or abuse may occur. I’d like to say straight away that there is never any excuse for rape or sexual abuse. Full stop. I feel quite concerned seeing anti-rape campaigns featuring images of drunk young women with the underlying message of ‘don’t get raped.’ Yes, it is important for people to keep safe while out partying or socializing but these type of campaigns feed into a wider ‘victim blaming’ culture and don’t represent the whole picture of who is at risk of rape. I’ve got a lot to say about this so will be talking about myths vs reality about rape and sexual abuse on my next blog!
If you want to chat to one of our friendly helpline and online team over Christmas then please check our opening hours.
Thanks for reading – more soon…
Safeline Helpline Team