'Sexual abuse and violence can affect anyone'

Conversations and events have been taking place across the UK as part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week - held from 5th to 11th February. Aisha, a year 12 student, joins the conversation to talk about the extent and frequency of sexual abuse and sexual violence and the importance of empathy and compassion towards those who have experienced it.

We first met Aisha at a visit to African Advocacy Foundation (AAF), one of the groups LCF supports. AAF is a community-led initiative that works with those who have been affected by a range of issues including sexual and reproductive health, violence against women and girls, female genital mutilation and mental health issues. Around 80% of AAF's clients are from African communities. Aisha, aged 17, has been volunteering at AAF since she was 14. Since then, she's been involved in multiple roles across the organisation - from managing their website, outreach within their female genital mutilation scheme, illustrating creative productions, speeches and poetry for the older members to perform at events and she is also their Youth Coordinator - coming up with ideas and activities for their younger members to participate in.

Below is a piece written by Aisha. 

Working at AAF, a charity based in South East London, I have found that although unintentionally, we frequently forget the small fragilities and imperfections of the world around us. Being young or old, school or work often take the front seat in life whilst we as a society are too busy to take a minute to pause and address the issues people face day to day. Sexual violence and abuse can affect anyone - a neighbour, a mother or a sister. A brother, a cousin or friend, potentially vulnerable and subjected to the hands of an abuser, trapped in situations, events or places of violence and left feeling as if they have no one to turn to.

A ten year old girl may walk into her classroom, bruises etched along her forearms, and may sigh a breath of relief because she is somewhere other than her home. A teenager may start her night having the time of her life at a party, but end the night in A&E shaking and trembling as she desperately gains the courage to ask for a rape kit. A working mother of three that lives on number 12 of your road, hiding her children in the bedroom wardrobe as her spouse storms the stairs towards her. This is a bitter reality.

The extent and frequency of sexual abuse and sexual violence have always been unacceptable, rarely ever with valid explanation or cause and an inevitably inhumane treatment towards a human being. The process of inflicting harm upon another does not only effect their physicality, but scars them mentally. It often causes crippling long term anxiety and depression, effecting the individual’s aspirations, motivations and self worth. Being aware of violence and how extremely immoral and wrong it is, is key to eradicating its prominence and helping individuals who are suffering gain the courage to seek help in their situations. Collectively, if we reach and try to understand the effects and difficulties people that have experienced sexual violence and abuse endure, we can push for safer environments, better trained healthcare professionals and police respondents in order to create a society of moral conviction and support.

Without empathy for those who are undergoing pain and hardships in situations that they cannot always control, we are left with a world of self absorption, which inevitably leads to social collapse and a world of hurt and darkness.