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  • Claire McFarlane

Help after sexual violence : creating a global resource

If a family member or friend came to you and asked for your help because they’d been sexually assaulted. Would you know what to do or where to look for advice?

I’m guessing possibly not.

Imagine, regardless of where you are in the world, you can go to one easy place that has all the info and contact numbers to help a survivor feel safe and supported.

I’m sad to say, it doesn’t exist. Well, not yet.

Later this month, Footsteps To Inspire is going to become that one easy place.

Myself and a team of volunteers are working very hard to create a go-to resource for survivors of sexual violence in every country in the world.

At the click of the link, you’ll know who to call, how to file a police report, what to do if you don’t want to report, where to find support, and most importantly, what are your rights as a survivor.

This idea has been with me ever since the day I was raped. It was my vision starting out Footsteps To Inspire. And, thankfully for the pandemic, I’ve been able to find the time to start making it a reality.

Nothing like this exists in the world.

A few international organisations have tried, but it’s haphazard and not kept up-to-date. Often the info is only academic or government provided, and it doesn't have a survivor-centred focus.

Even country embassies don’t have this kind of information available for their citizens in each country. And if they do, it can be outdated, too generic or not relevant to the current circumstances.

I hear you asking…

Why is something like this so important?

I’d like to use my own story as an example to help explain how life changing a resource like this can be. You can skip this part if it's too hard to read.

I was brutally raped in Paris when I was just 21 years old and almost lost my life. I had a lot of injuries and had no choice but to try and find help. I had no idea who to turn to for that help and managed to stumble to a late night bar. When I got there, I asked the owner to call the ambulance.

What followed was exhausting and traumatic.

The emergency services, police and hospital were doing what they could, but they had no training or education around trauma-informed care for survivors of sexual assault. I was shunted from one person to the next, forced to recount the experience over and over again. No one informed me of my rights, nor explained how things worked nor gave me time to recover in the hospital bed (the police interrogated me twice while I was in hospital).

No one explained to me about the medical follow-up I needed or who I could turn to in the hospital or police station for help if I felt overwhelmed. There was never any offer of an interpreter (my French was not fluent back then) nor a counsellor to make sure I was coping. There was no show of kindness or compassion. There was a lot of victim blaming and statements like: ‘You must have done something to cause this’.

I did try to find help on my own. I managed to locate a very underfunded NGO who had some basic info but it was all in French and their office was in a very dangerous part of Paris. I felt too unsafe to go there and struggled to understand the info over the phone.

I also tried the Australian Consulate. They were kind, in a ‘manly and official’ sort of way. They had minimal resources and most of the info was outdated or not relevant.

In the end, I was all alone to figure out this violent aftermath. At times, it felt as bad, if not worse, than the rape itself.

If only there was a service I could turn to for advice or help. Someone to advocate for me or at least inform me of my rights. A safe place I could access information so I felt a little bit more empowered and protected going through the process.

But, it didn’t exist.

In most countries, it still doesn’t exist.

This has been my vision since the rape…to create one easy place that has all the info and contact numbers to help a survivor feel safe and supported anywhere in the world.

Footsteps To Inspire makes that vision a reality.

I’ve now run in 55 countries so there is already a lot of countries to get started with. As I keep going with the project, we will be able to keep adding to the country directory until every country of the world is there.

What a legacy and way for me, a rape survivor, and you, a supporter of Footsteps To Inspire to leave an impact for years to come.

And maybe we’ll even be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

I’ll be sharing more about the country directory in the weeks to come. Mostly on social media so please do follow Footsteps To Inspire on your preferred platform 👇

Biggest thanks for all the support you show me and Footsteps To Inspire.

Until soon,

Claire 🌸




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