I had no idea how to start this post. After my last blog posts talking about summer outfits and beauty events, I felt like a fraud for taking the topic of conversation to something so serious.
But, after a lot of thinking, I realised that actually, it’s important to bring this conversation to my every day chat – because that’s where it should be. An open conversation of support, power and awareness.
I can’t quite believe that, in the Glasgow area that the Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre covers with a population of approximately 1.2 million, 52% of whom are women, even the most conservative figures estimate that one in five of those women will experience sexual violence at some time in their lives.
One in five. That could be your sister, your mum, your best friend, your aunt, your niece.
Although I’ve been very open and honest about my struggles with grief and anxiety, I cannot imagine the pain of dealing with rape and sexual assault and, before Marks and Spencer got in touch about the work of the Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre, I would never have known such a support existed here in Glasgow. And it really made me think of how many other women won’t know abut this support service, because we all hope it’s something we never have to deal with.
The crisis centre is the busiest in Scotland and helps nearly 2,000 rape and sexual assault survivors, holding around 20,000 counselling calls in addition to face-to-face counselling sessions every year.
Before now, women with disabilities faced issues in receiving face-to-face counselling due to limited access to the centre, despite being three times more likely to have been abused as a child.
This was where M&S came in. Glasgow is one of 10 locations selected for M&S’s community transformation programme, as part of Plan A 2025. The retailer is currently trialling a range of actions in Glasgow to help tackle the issues that matter most to communities – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, mental health and wellbeing.
The M&S team got to work
Earlier this month, the M&S Argyle St store colleagues kick-started a week-long volunteering drive, helping to transform the facilities at the Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre and improve access for disabled rape and sexual assault survivors.
The store raised more than £6,000 over the last year for the charity and helped renovate a space at its base on Bell Street to enable women with disabilities benefit from its face-to-face counselling service.
Following advice from the Glasgow Access Panel, they required much needed funding and man power to install appropriate flooring, a hearing loop system and sensory lighting as well as an evacuation chair.
To gain a better understanding of the centre and its work, I speak to Isabelle from Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre, who answers all of my questions.
WHAT WORK DOES THE CENTRE DO?
Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis provides support and advocacy services to any self identified woman who is a survivor of rape, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence and harassment (including sharing of online images etc).
We offer a range of services that include our telephone helpline which is open every day of the week, face to face support by appointment, drop in facilities, email support, live online support, group support and outreach services across our service area. We provide support to women aged 13 years and over.
HOW CAN WE SUPPORT?
Anyone who wants to support our cause can do so in many different ways. Financial support is always very welcomed as the demand on our service increases every year. This can be done through a one-off donation or by contributing a small amount each month.
Our website www.glasgowclyderapecrisis.org.uk has information on all the ways we can be supported. All our staff and volunteers are women, so if any woman wants to volunteer with us she can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many volunteering opportunities open, from helpline support worker, to fundraiser, to events staff and general cover for office and reception.
THE RENOVATION PROJECT
We have been really keen to improve access to our centre for disabled survivors. We know that a disabled child is 3 times more likely to be abused and we see many disabled women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, particularly where there has been very close personal care involved in their childhood.
The renovation has created a room that is barrier free for women who need space for a wheelchair, who worry about walking on potentially dangerous floors, women who need a hearing loop system or special lighting for their sight impairment. This can help women feel more comfortable, safer and more valued while seeking support for their experiences.
HOW TO GET IN TOUCH
We have a telephone helpline that is open every day from 11am until 2pm and on Monday to Thursday evening between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.
Women can call themselves or a friend or family member can make appointments on their behalf. We also offer support to family members and this can be discussed with our helpline support workers. All our services are shown on our website at www.glasgowclyderapecrisis.org.uk.
THE NEXT STEPS
The renovation has been an amazing achievement, but we do want to maintain the momentum with an additional piece of work. We are seeking resources to allow us to train a number of our staff to level one British Sign Language so that deaf women can use our drop in service, which they cannot do at the moment as we don’t have a signer on staff.
That facility will continue to bread down the barriers that inhibit disabled survivors from seeking support for the trauma that they have experienced in their lives.
As well as the work with Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre, M&S colleagues across the nation continued the week long activity by committing over 40,000 hours to volunteering at 685 local projects that make a difference to the communities they serve.
Several initiatives are already taking place across the city and surrounding area as part of the community transformation programme. This includes fortnightly meet-ups for new mums in the M&S Café to enjoy a coffee and a chat, working in collaboration with the leading social network MUSH, which connects mums locally based on their children’s ages and interests.
Stores across Glasgow will also host a monthly ‘Tea and Company’ get together in the M&S Café in partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS). The ‘friendship’ tables, hosted by RVS volunteers, are set up to encourage anyone sitting alone to come and join a conversation, with the retailer offering £1 off hot drinks for both meet-ups.
M&S stores across the UK are connected to local initiatives by Neighbourly, the social network for social good. To get involved in the online conversation, follow @MarksandSpencer and #MarksinAction.
For more information on Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre and to support their services, visit their website.