The #ItsNotOk campaign aims to raise awareness of sexual abuse and violence. Credit: PA WIRE/Jacob King
A citizen-driven awareness campaign under Twitter hashtags #ItsNotOk and #itsnotok2022 is at the centre of this year’s Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
Running from February 7-13, the campaign week aims “to raise awareness of sexual abuse and violence and to provide an opportunity for any organisation or individual to engage in dialogue”.
This year’s campaign is on the backdrop of high profile sexual abuse cases and judgments. One such case involves Harvard University, which is accused of ignoring alleged sexual harassment by Professor John Comaroff.
This case, alongside many others recorded over the years, highlights the need for sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness campaigns.
Some of the key issues being highlighted in this year’s campaign are harassment, assault, rape and child abuse, consent, victim blaming, trauma, shame, safe spaces to share experiences, support groups for survivors, punishments for offenders as well as the Disclosure and Barring Service, where offenders are concerned.
The Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre, Darlington, while noting the importance of consent, tweeted: “It shouldn’t be taken casually. It should be given with enthusiasm.”
It says further that flirting, a “maybe”, past consent, a forced ‘yes”, silence, the state of unconsciousness, a mini skirt and being drunk do not amount to consent.
#itsnotok2022 was founded by Yehudis Godlsobel, the chief executive officer at Migdal Emunah Ltd, which “provides support services to victims of sexual abuse in the Jewish community and promotes awareness and education”. She is also the co-chair of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
Via social media and other platforms, Goldsobel has spoken out against the culture of coverup, which aims to protect offenders and institutions such as religious organisations through actions such as the signing of non-disclosure agreements.
She says she has asked the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse “for independent oversight of religious organisations”.
“It’s a sad world when organisations prioritise their reputation over adequate safeguarding,” she said.
Goldsobel has also shared her views on trauma and challenges in getting government support, such as long waiting times and lack of specialist support services in some areas.
“We live in a society that continues to add trauma, on top of trauma, on top of more trauma. While simultaneously gov make cuts to statutory help/support, rely on [the] third sector with an unsustainable framework. Then we wonder why people are desperate for help and support,” she said.
Meanwhile, the National Health Service (NHS) is running its own major campaign to encourage victims of sexual abuse to seek its help, with a budget of £20 million to boost specialist services.
The NHS is trying to lower the statistics of victims who do not seek help after suffering sexual abuse and of people who do not know where to find this help.
“A new survey found two in five people aren’t sure or do not know where to get help after being sexually assaulted, with 72 per cent unaware there are NHS specialist sexual assault services who can offer confidential support,” it says.
The NHS says it is also creating lead roles for domestic violence and sexual assault, “alongside dedicated domestic violence support for the NHS and integrated care systems across the country”.