Reflections on the Rape Crisis Annual Appeal

April 20, 2012

Last year was my first time serving as a street collector for Wellington Rape Crisis. The first time someone put money in my bucket I almost cried. Sure I’m a bit of sap (standing ovations and other examples of rising group-energy make me cry) but I am also continually touched by voluntary gestures of kindness.

This year the annual appeal bowled me over all over again. There were people putting in $5, $10, $20 dollar bills (a couple of $100 turned up too!) But there were also people stopping and literally emptying out their purses of every coin they could find.

I was particularly struck by how many men donated money. (Which was a good reminder for me to check my assumptions.) By my estimation they represented at least, but possibly more, than half of the people donating. I don’t recall that we had the same volume of men last year.

There were people who looked like they didn’t have much who would empty their pockets. People would walk past, pat their pockets and come back to donate. People who would withdraw money from ATMs deliberately so they could give.

As was the same last year, people would disclose to us. Some out loud, saying ‘that happened to me’ as they put their money into our tins. Some wordlessly as they lingered by our tables with haunted eyes.

Some would say ‘keep up the good work’, walk past and smile, or just give you the good old ‘chur’ head-nod.

Those gestures were equally validating. Every time I saw a purple Rape Crisis sticker on someone’s jacket I felt a sense of kinship with that person.

They care. My inner voice would whisper. They care about the work we do. They care about people who have been raped.

It was as if the usual lines of human connection shifted for a day. Instead of primarily identifying with other people of the same gender/age/ethnicity/socio-economic class/shoe-colour, for a short while we were realigned and connected through lines of a shared compassion for rape survivors and shared interest in seeing rape and, sexual abuse and violence end.

Because let’s face it, working with rape survivors and advocacy is hard work, not just because of the depth of trauma involved and extent of emotional support provided but because its loaded with stigma.

Some people don’t even want to acknowledge that rape happens, they would be happier if the word just went away.

The work of the Wellington Rape Crisis Annual Appeal helps make rape visible. Being on the streets that day with bright purple bibs with the word RAPE across our chests was just as much a public awareness campaign as it was a fundraising effort.

The work that surrounds making rape visible is political. Rape happens and it won’t go away if as a society we are silent about it.

Let me be clear that some individuals rightly choose silence because that is their very legitimate way of coping. Survivors may not want to be reminded of events which they are working hard to overcome.

That is why I, along with many other collectors, was on the streets that day, to help lend a physical presence to the reality of rape for those who can’t.

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3 Responses to “Reflections on the Rape Crisis Annual Appeal”

  1. Geraint Scott said

    I felt similar emotions while collecting 🙂 it was incredibly heart-warming!

  2. Wendy said

    Excellent and really thoughtful post. xo

  3. Natalie said

    Looks like a perfect piece for the next WRC newsletter!

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