This week along-side the amazing support and solidarity we have received, that we are so grateful for, we have also come up against some questions that we think are important to address openly and fully here. Hopefully this will mean people can have a clearer understanding of where we are coming from.
We have been challenged on our credibility and credentials to be running our workshops and courses, asked why we are charging for our courses, told that £40 is too much money for our four-day men’s learning course, and questioned over the suitability of imagery used in our marketing.
We understand that because of the society we live in, we judge each other based on officially verified credentials, academic education, awards and conventional professional backgrounds. While there is some merit to this, it isn’t always an accurate way to assess someone’s suitability for the role and excludes huge demographics who have not been able to access specific platforms to meet these requirements, but who have other experience, skills and abilities that make them even more appropriate to the role. Lived experience, alternative education, self-learning and experience and skills gathered from other types of work (such as campaigns, mutual support, community work and activism) are hugely undervalued.
We don’t believe people should be measured simply on professional experience, academic education and qualifications or awards. We believe there needs to be more space given to and more value placed on lived experience.
We both do happen to have professional backgrounds, qualifications and awards but we do not lead with this information when presenting our work. We collectively have over 19 years’ experience working within human rights, women’s services and survivor charities. You can find out more about this here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryony-and-meg-rrp-59048369/.
However, our work now is actually shaped from lived experience not from professional development so we don’t want our credibility to be measured by our previous careers. This is why we don’t readily promote our credentials in all our material. We stepped away from this sector for a reason. We think different systems and structures are needed.
We want to normalise recognising the value of lived experience and judging ability on individually developed skills and knowledge, rather than only looking at mainstream professions and conventional achievements.
Charging for courses, training and workshops:
Charging for a course is standard practice.
This is an incredibly low price for a four-week course and is only a fraction of its value. We chose this low price to encourage as many men as possible to sign up.
We shouldn’t expect women to work for free, particularly when educating men on the impact of male violence, on us. Even though we are not paying ourselves yet (we have been working entirely unpaid for over a year, as our project is self-funded), we will be in the future and we aim for course fees and training fees to cover some of those costs when viable. We should be paying ourselves at least the wage we received in our previous professional careers.
We need to normalise placing actual value on survivor’s expertise and time working in any job where their lived experience is of real use and value to their role.
It is our aim to pay all survivors involved in RPP; too often survivors working in survivor services are tokenised and not paid for their time. This is not OK and we want to set the standard we expect to see.
Regardless of the above, money from our current courses goes to RRP and in particular the Resilience Fund, a fund for all survivors of rape and sexual violence who can’t afford to meet their self-care needs. We have been running this fund for over a year and supported many survivors to access things they need in their recovery.
We deliberately choose not to have traditional professional looking shots within most of our work as we want to see more people being able to present authentically in their field of work and not have to fit in to a particular narrative or ‘look’ to be perceived as worthy.
We understand that people are used to seeing very specific imagery around rape and sexual violence, male violence and domestic abuse.
We have purposefully created imagery within our work that challenges the representation of survivors/victims, of women and of male violence.
We relentlessly see imagery in the media and in the charity sector that depicts a very one-dimensional view; victims/survivors/vulnerable women are seen as weak, broken and dehumanised. We are often reduced to faceless figures, silhouettes, shadows or body parts.
This causes deep problems in how others (and ourselves) view our identity. Not being represented as human, as normal people with a range of emotions, creates a huge separation and detachment to us. We are an outsider, we are othered.
Our identity is entirely that of a vulnerable victim. We are reduced to our experience, our trauma. This is not helpful to our recovery or our perception of trauma or the impacts of violence and abuse. People are not only uncomfortable with survivors/victims looking and presenting as powerful, capable, multifaceted individuals but it leads to us not being believed or seen as valid if we do not fit in with this stereotype. Perpetrators are also depicted as violent men with their fist clenched towering over a woman. The narratives we are fed so often differ from what situations really look like and that is a problem.
Within the charity sector we need to be seen as incapable and vulnerable so that we can be ‘rescued’. People want to save, so we need to look like we need ‘saving’.
This type of imagery exists because we live in a society where people need to ‘deserve’ support and help and we determine what deservability looks like; innocent weak female victims and violent bad male perpetrators
This also plays into the criminal justice system and how survivors need to be seen as ‘the perfect victim’ to be believed.
We choose to show alternative images that are more human and show ourselves authentically and in ways we are rarely portrayed in survivor spaces, to offer an alternative and more honest narrative.