After twenty years or more working with and supporting global activist Eve Ensler in her fight against sexual abuse and rape of women and girls in warzone countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I am horrified to see how just how bad the situation is in the UK itself, writes Lynne Franks
In the last year there seems to be something in the news on a daily basis about sexual exploitation and abuse of young women and children in different ways and from different parts of society.
From young vulnerable women exploited and groomed as sex workers by cab drivers in towns including Rotherham, Keighley and Oxford; to well-known household names such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter abusing children in the most horrifying ways; to establishment figures, politicians, police and men of power being named by survivors of children’s homes all over the country, the situation just grows and grows.
According to The Office of the Children’s Commission, one in twenty under eighteens in this country have been sexually abused in some way, 90 per cent by someone they know.
Eve Ensler launched One Billion Rising three years ago in more than 200 countries across the planet to draw attention to the fact that 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused at some time or other – one billion in fact.
Now in its third year, OBR brings performers, politicians, grass roots women’s networks, dancers, poets, women and men together on 14th February to dance, drum, speak, and rise to say no more to this violence.
As OBR’s UK co-ordinator, I felt proud when several thousand got together last year in the pouring rain in Trafalgar Square to protest and draw attention to all forms of sexual abuse against women and girls, from FGM to slavery, domestic workers to political detainees and, of course, the many cases of domestic violence.
But this year it seemed very clear that the area of focus in the UK has to be about the many, many years of suffering by so many of our children, now many of them damaged adults, who have been abused by those in power with nowhere to go with their terrible stories. And to say it has to stop now!
Fortunately we are listening. Whether it’s young women abused by drug gangs on council estates or middle-class women and men used as children by paedophile rings in the most surprising circumstances, I believe it is up to all of us to be aware and receptive to what is happening to young people in our communities.
I don’t think we can rely on officials and official organisations to look after us. I believe we have to look after ourselves. We need education on healthy relationships and healthy love through our schools – a bill which was turned down by Michael Grove, MP, when Education Minister in this government for some strange reason.
Now all political parties are promising to ensure the bill goes through – and we need to make sure that whoever ends up running the next parliament doesn’t back down.
As a grandmother of five beautiful little children myself, I am getting together with a group of other powergrans, including film producer Alison Owen, mother of Lily Allen; fashion designers Orsola de Castro and Edina Ronay; Eve Pollard, journalist and mother of Claudia Winkleman. Alongside other strong wise women, we are setting out to inspire other grandmothers to be there for the children of their communities.
And young women too are feeling passionate about gathering together to say no more. Girl Guides, rappers, actresses, poets, stand-up comedians, dancers, drummers, youth groups from Kids Co, the Frederick Bremer School – where Channel 4 filmed Educating the East End – youth representatives from Brooks and the Global Foundation to End Domestic Violence; the grass roots Incredible Brilliant Youth organization and many others will be coming together next Saturday, 14th February at Marble Arch to Rise in protest at the dreadful record of sexual violence and abuse we have in the UK towards children and young people to discuss and demand how we can change this terrible situation.
If you, like me, feel motivated to be part of a movement that is going to bring together women, men and young people to really make a difference to this situation, join us at Marble Arch; create your own Rising or find one in your area; tweet, instagram and blog why you, like me, say we have to Rise and we have to Rise this Valentine’s Day. Sexual abuse against children and young people has to stop.
This country has to change its fundamental culture from abusing power over vulnerable young people to an environment that is based on healthy love and healthy support, nurturing those at most at risk of all. Our children are our future!
Join us at One Billion Rising: Love Revolution at Marble Arch, 11.30 for noon start for an incredible and exciting hour or two that will change sexual abuse to the vulnerable in the UK.