Nov 25, 2018
The 25th of November is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which raises awareness of the gender-based violence and discrimination that many women face and experience every day.
Violence against women is deeply and historically entrenched into society. Alongside our direct support work with women who are sexually exploited, we campaign to change the context that we live in – challenging unhelpful narratives around male violence that have seeped into our culture. The A Hidden History of Women in the East End: The Alternative Jack the Ripper tour’s that launched last year our one expression of this. The tours – which narrate the untold story of Jack the Ripper’s victims – juxtapose a historical case of violence against women in prostitution with the modern day stories of women who experience violence selling sex for sell for survival in the area today.
Women in prostitution are often seen this way: as different. Women in prostitution often experience even higher levels of risk of discrimination and violence than women on average. The abuse and hate crime directed towards women involved in prostitution is often justified by the dehumanising idea that these women are ‘prostitutes’ not people.
Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, said of the violent rapes and murders he committed “the women I killed were filth – bastard prostitutes who were littering the streets. I was just clearing up the place a bit”. Had he been caught, we imagine the unidentified murdered commonly known as ‘Jack the Ripper’ would have made a similar statement.
These were women who were unworthy and judged. These were women who did not matter. These were women who could be discriminated against and despised. These were women who didn’t count.
We believe women matter. We believe their lives count for something. At Beyond the Streets we are working to provide routes out for women who have experienced violence and sexual exploitation. Our NOvember campaign is raising awareness and funds to fight against sexual exploitation and violence against women. As activists across the world take action today to say no to violence against women, why don’t you join them. One woman supported by Beyond Support – our call back support service for women – made this powerful statement, urging others to join her in speaking out:
“By sharing what happened to me, I started to take power away from a man, who has been abusing me sexually and emotionally for a long period on time. Silence is the biggest enemy, as long as we are silent, we are alone and isolated. I did not go to the police, as I was so ashamed of what happen to me and blamed myself, I also was very worried how people will see me. The best way to do it, is to reach for the support, which is professional and confidential. It can give you a new perspective for your struggle and possibly you will find a solution for yourself. Every woman deserves respect, freedom of choice, freedom from being scared and frightened. I called the service, when I didn’t know who else to turn to and thought maybe they have the experience to point me in the right direction. A Beyond Support Worker referred me to the Centre for Women’s Justice, who gave me legal advice on how I can protect myself and which steps I can take, through this advice I have learned the man, who did all the horrible stuff to me, broke the law many times and he is not so untouchable, the way he always wanted me to believe, due his line of work and connections, I know some of you, can be very scared to ask and reach for help, but here you will be to talk safely and look for the solution. I know how difficult it is to open up and how long it can take, but it is never too late to do it.”
Don’t stay silent, a few suggestions on how you can speak up against sexual exploitation:
1. Challenge Attitudes & Don’t collude.
Share what you’ve learnt through our #NOvemberCampaign blog series and challenge people about the way they view women. One way you can take action in this way is by challenging jokes/humour that are made towards women involved in prostitution.
This #NOvemberCampaign we are trying to raise £22,000 to sustain our vital support services for women. Why £22,000? It’s the same amount a postcard allegedly sent from Jack the Ripper to the Police was sold for at auction earlier this year. Join us as we launch our campaign to raise the same amount. Are we willing to invest as much into providing support for women who are sexually exploited as we are in maintaining the legacy of a serial killer? Help us reach our target by giving us a one of gift of £22 or partnering with us by giving regularly.
3. Join us on an A Hidden History of Women in the East End: Alternative Jack the Ripper Tour.
Tickets for 2018 have now sold out, but we’ve just released new dates for 2019. Book your ticket for a tour in the new year today.