October 30, 2018
A Wellington sexual abuse support group invited a survivor and scientist, who is transgender, to speak at their AGM this week. Almost immediately came a barrage of attacks from all around the world.
Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP does exactly what our name suggests. We exist to support survivors of sexual abuse, their families and whānau, throughout Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti. We have been doing this since 1985, and we support people of any age, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
Before I get any further, it is important to reiterate that sexual abuse and violence happens overwhelmingly to women. Sexual violence is a gendered issue. For centuries, women and women’s bodies have been treated like property – something to be owned and consumed, used and abused.
And the same patriarchal culture that enables this has allowed other vulnerable groups – boys, gender minorities, people with disabilities and others – to be targeted too.
- 1 in 3 girls will have some kind of unwanted sexual experience before they are 16
- Between 1 in 6 and 1 in 8 boys experience some form of sexual abuse
- 1 in 2 transgender people, and half of all people with disabilities, experience some form of sexual abuse.
This is a blight on us all.
But the tide is changing. A year ago #metoo exploded on to the scene. Women working in the film industry in the US raised their hands to say Me Too – exposing Harvey Weinstein and so many others like him and the decades of abuse they had gotten away with.
Of course the architect of #metoo was a woman called Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist, who had spoken out years before. Reflecting a year on from #metoo going viral, she recently said:
“We are working diligently so that the popular narrative about #MeToo shifts from what it is. We have to shift the narrative that it’s a gender war … that it’s only for a certain type of person — that it’s for white, cisgender, heterosexual, famous women. That has to shift. And I think that it is shifting, I really do.”
Hold that thought.
As part of our work at HELP we are passionately committed to working with community – to engage in the issues as well as provide specialist support. We are here to change the culture that causes the problem in the first place.
Tomorrow we are holding our annual meeting and a panel. We want to talk about what has actually happened since the advent of #metoo on the popular stage, and what still needs to change.
We share Tarana Burke’s outlook. We know only too well that the more you stand out from the crowd – the further away you step out from the heterosexual norm – you more likely you are to be targeted. That to change the narrative we need the voices of survivors from across the spectrum speaking out.
So as part of our six-person panel, we have a transgender woman, Sally Dellow – a survivor and a scientist – providing her perspective. Sally has been campaigning for over 30 years to claim the space that is rightfully hers. She may have been assigned a male gender identity at birth but it is her human right to be recognised as female.
In the lead up to the event we have been profiling the speakers on social media – with a photo and a bio. We posted Sally’s on the afternoon of Wednesday the 17th.
What happened next was for us a huge eye opener into the struggle that trans women face.