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Are You Benchmarking?

**Trigger warning – this blog contains references to sexual violence.

Estimated statistics suggest 1 in 3 women are survivors of physical or sexual harm in their lifetime, including sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape. In the past 24 hours, you have possibly interacted with 3 different women, so you have likely spoken with, texted, emailed or smiled at a survivor of sexual abuse or violence.


Remember ShrinkyDinks?  Their shape and colour didn’t change when baked, they merely shrank in size, and came out of the oven looking exactly the same…..but lots smaller.  This makes a helpful analogy for  the way survivors of sexual harm sometimes minimalize their experiences, diminishing them in a range of ways for a plethora of reasons.  Denial, social conditioning, fear, trauma, and memory issues are just some of the factors that lead survivors, and society, to minimalize sexual harm.  For some, the minimalization is essential for their own self-preservation.

Recently, the author of Broken Pieces and Broken Places, Rachel Thompson (@RachelintheOC) started a Twitter hashtag #WhySurvivorsDontReport.  Rachel was deluged with responses from women and men around the world.  Her blog is here.  Some of the reason that so much sexual violence goes unreported is probably that those who do speak out may feel embarrassed and ashamed, not just because of what was done to them, but because they felt they needed to report it.  Indeed, Rachel quotes a statistic from RAINN: “8% [of sexual violence survivors] believed it was not important enough to report.”  Perhaps they think they should just get on with it…..after all, these things happen all the time, right?


Along with society drawing comparisons and telling us what constitutes the “worst” sexual violence, and also our own ability to listen to each other’s stories, letting ours fade into the background when we compare what we survived in relation to friends who experienced what society might tell us is deemed worse, a third phenomenon can happen.

It seems we ourselves can, at times, benchmark our experiences of sexual harm, keeping a mentally-ordered list of incidents based on relativity; the worst things which happened to us remain at the top.  Other incidents  we rank in order from worst to least worst, until we get near the bottom where we list the time we were “just” tickled too much by a scary uncle as children, “only” sexually harassed at a bus stop, or maybe “sort of” groped by an acquaintance when drunk at a party.

Some of the sexual harassment, violence and assaults I experienced growing up were incidents I had not given much more than a passing thought to until recent years.  Was this because they were ‘nothings’?  In isolation – umm…no; absolutely not.  How had I managed to shrink some of them down into near insignificance?  Had I chosen my scariest experiences and then used them as a measuring stick for everything else, perhaps?

The positive element is that perhaps we are in a good place with those things at the bottom of the list, we have not allowed them to consume us. But they are all examples of sexual harm.  By shrinking them down, we must be careful we are not communicating to others that they should minimalize similar things that happened to them, there are no rules – everyone responds in their own way.

If we are going to raise children who feel confident to speak out about sexual harm and to understand how that behaviour – any sexually abusive behaviour – affects others, we need to be able to talk about it with them.

We need to stop diminishing it, because making it appear smaller and smaller doesn’t make it go away.

We need to challenge what happens today, but also, if we are able, explore our own benchmarking – what is at the bottom of our lists of past experiences of sexual harm, those incidents we may have shrank down in our minds, for whatever reasons?

This is not because we want to make them bigger; it is not because we want to re-traumatise ourselves.

It is because they were still not okay.

And we need our children to know that.

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The Smell of Smoke

This blog is dedicated to the children who survived the Grenfell Tower block fire

in London, on 14th June, 2017.


* Trigger warning – may be difficult for anyone who has experienced a fire.

Waking up to news of


Civility (Google it)

When I think about “social media”, the word “social” stands out – defined as “relating to society”, with synonyms including “communal”, “collective”, “group”, and “civil”. Lately, there seems to be a vast amount of social media activity which is anything but civil.


The Morning After

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

Trigger warning – contains references to rape.

“I warn Toby*, I tell him ‘You make sure, before you do anything with a girl, that she’s definitely into it!’ – you hear so many stories where girls change


Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?

Read to daily as a little girl, some stories stick in my memory. I had a Ladybird version of Three Billy Goats Gruff. I remember wondering as a child why they were called “Billy” goats? Were all goats boys? Was “Gruff” their surname?


“Brace! Brace!”

***Triggering content – this piece includes non-explicit references to abuse/violence.

Definition of trauma triggers.

Definition of trigger warning.

If you have ever flown, you will be familiar with the phrase “Brace! Brace!” which pilots announce to prepare passengers for


Let’s Stop “Slut-Shaming”

*All names have been changed.

I was at a conference recently, “Speaking Out to End Sexual Violence.” During discussion, a delegate used the term “slut-shaming” which sounded very jarring. Having not heard it used for a little while, I began thinking about it.


Where the blame lies.

*Trigger warning – this post contains references to rape, please consider your well-being before reading.

After previewing Listen to Your Selfie, I watched it again with our children, always interested in their feedback on resources. Near the end, the young girl hesitates as


A Thorn by Any Other Name….

Trigger Note: This blog discusses sexual assault which some might find triggering. Please prioritise your own well-being when choosing whether to continue reading – only you know what feels safe for you.

Involved with planning a project on sexual violence has led to numerous discussions


In the Doghouse

Heard anyone lately saying “I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached”, “Only have myself to blame” or “Could have kicked myself”? The last one is particularly sad; can you imagine if we responded to everyone else’s errors with physical aggression/violence in the