Jersey's first dedicated charity for supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault is approaching its fifth birthday, but much of their work is still dedicated to debunking the stigma around the "most heinous of crimes".
As Express's chosen charity for 2020, Jersey Action Against Rape (JAAR) is using the platform to urge the public that "the days of burying our heads in the sand, and denying the truth, are over".
In her first column for Express, co-founder of the charity, Sara McIntosh looks back over the last five years and ahead to the future of protecting survivors in Jersey...
"Incredibly, it is five years since Jersey Action Against Rape (JAAR) was launched. As we celebrate our fifth birthday, I reflect with amazement and enormous pride on all that we have achieved since those first tentative steps.
Pictured: JAAR organised Jersey's first 'Take Back the Night' march (Gary Grimshaw).
Setting up a charity with no previous experience whatsoever was a very steep learning curve, or, as one of our volunteers questioned, 'where was the curve?'
If we did not have the experience, we certainly had the passion, willpower and determination. What we hadn’t anticipated was the extraordinary support and goodwill we would receive from all corners of the Jersey community.
Volunteers came forward from all professions and areas of society, offering their expertise and time in order to help get this vital charity off the ground. They shared our vision of providing the best support possible for survivors of rape and sexual assault in Jersey.
It’s that taboo subject. Rape. Sexual assault. Words that understandably make people feel uncomfortable. They are the most heinous of crimes, and we would all prefer that they did not exist. The days of burying our heads in the sand, and denying the truth, are over and it is imperative that the stigma surrounding these crimes is removed and there is greater understanding of the subject.
Pictured: "Volunteers came forward from all professions and areas of society."
Two of JAAR’s aims are to provide counselling and support for survivors of rape and sexual assault, and their families, and to raise awareness and help remove the stigma associated with the crime. In the five years since the charity launched, we have provided over 3000 hours of free counselling.
We have linked up with The RAP Project (www.therapproject.co.uk) in the UK who provide a variety of programmes for teenagers, parents, teachers and corporate clients aiming to raise awareness about personal safety and prevention in areas of rape and sexual assault, while openly discussing how pornography, and social media, influence attitudes and expectations. JAAR brings The RAP Project over every year to go into as many schools as possible.
As The RAP Project say: “Awareness Is Power”.
Video: The RAP Project giving a presentation at Highlands College last year.
JAAR also visits many other organisations and businesses talking about the work we do and the help we offer.
None of this could be achieved without the hard work and dedication of our amazing team, both our volunteer counsellors and our non- qualified volunteers, all supported by our three wonderful part-time members of staff; also, the Jersey community, which has embraced JAAR in a way we could never have imagined.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity so kindly provided by Bailiwick Express & Connect, to give our heartfelt thanks to all those who have been involved with JAAR in whatever capacity over the last five years. People’s goodwill and kindness keeps us going in the most difficult of times, and carries us through to the easier times.
To all survivors of rape and sexual assault in Jersey, you are not alone; we are here to listen, and thank you for trusting us."
This column first appeared in the February edition of Connect magazine. Click here to read it in full.
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