April 2018 marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Clean Break is utilising its voice to become an agent of change.
The theme of this year’s activity is “Embrace Your Voice”, a subject that places importance on words having power in bringing about constructive change in ending sexual assault. We want to use our voice to shine a light on women involved in the criminal justice system and their experiences with sexual assault, remembering that many of these women have experienced a traumatic and abusive past.
How are women in Prison affected by sexual assault?
“How can everybody expect me to be humane when I am treated inhumanely?”
It is evident that the worsening conditions of female prisons and the continued cutbacks have contributed to the decline in the emotional stability of women in prison. It is most important to say that many of these women involved in the criminal justice system were victims of domestic violence and 53% stated they had experienced childhood abuse. These factors are not considered in a system designed for men. Standard procedures such as supervised bathroom trips can often trigger re-traumatisation.
How does Clean Break explore these issues on stage?
The issue of sexual abuse is so common amongst women who have been involved with the criminal justice system, that it has been inevitably featured in many Clean Break plays over the years. Dream Pill by Rebecca Prichard is one such play. Commissioned as part of Clean Breaks Charged season, the piece explored the lives of two Nigerian girls, trafficked to the UK and forced into prostitution. The girls face horrendous abuse, finding escape through their interactions with the audience and their dream pills.
“TUNDE enters. Her dress is ripped and her face is smudged and bruised”.
The play provides an insight into the sorts of violence that many women involved in the criminal justice system have faced, this violence is both physical and emotional. In many cases it leads to their involvement in criminal activity, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The entrance of substances as a coping mechanism is a key theme explored through Dream Pill, “Did he bring your pill?”.
Many of these women's actions are a direct result of the violence they have faced in their lives. We must take the necessary action, share our own stories and use our voices for others who are not heard, to ensure that these women become survivors and not forever labelled victims.
If you need help or advice about any of the issues addressed in the blog, please contact Rape Crisis to find information and resources.
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