When was the last time you saw something unjust and decided to do something about it? Earlier this year it was announced that Rape Crisis Leicester would be losing their funding, and rather than just bemoan a terrible blow to women and girls across the city, poet Jess Green and folk singer Grace Petrie have stepped up to the plate. Their effort to ease the pressure on the organisation is Stand up for Rape Crisis – a night of comedy, spoken word and music featuring some huge names including Sara Pascoe, Josie Long & Jen Brister, as well as Jess and Grace themselves. Oh, and don’t forget the raffle.
“If Leicester Rape Crisis is forced to close there will be no services in the city for women and girls who have experienced sexual violence,” explains Jess. “Women will either have to travel to another city or go through their GP to access counselling – and we know how easy it is to get an appointment at the GP these days.”
Sexual assault has never been more prominent an issue than it is now; you only have to look at the recent US Presidential Election to see how pervasive it is, and how important it is to address.
“We all know someone that’s been a victim of this,” says Grace. “Rape and sexual assault support is something that has always been criminally under-resourced, but now more than ever. The work that’s done by Jasmine House in Leicester to help victims is absolutely essential.”
“Without wanting to be dramatic about it, this service really is life-saving and they really are at the point where they may have to close,” continues Jess. “As it stands they have no regular funding coming in to the charity. If a woman is referred through UAVA (United Against Violence and Abuse) then LRC receives £25 to support her – but most women don’t. Most women google rape crisis services in Leicester, find the number and ring them, in which case LRC receive no funding to support that woman whatsoever.”
So, in the absence of a rational response in a period of austerity, Jess and Grace have taken the issue into their own hands and put together an incredible line-up, although it’s clear that they feel they shouldn’t have to do it in the first place. Jess is adamant.
“The council should be funding these services. We should be living under a government which believes it is vital that they have all the funding that they need to improve the lives of the women and girls who need them, but we are living through a time when a lot of these services exist solely on goodwill and fundraisers. That’s scary in itself because we’re all struggling to make ends meet with the cost of living against wages that haven’t increased in five years, so it’s becoming difficult to fundraise for all of the services that need it.”
“It’s a great line-up and a fun thing to be doing, but what a tragedy we’re doing it,” Grace agrees. “If Rape Crisis and other essential women’s services, for example domestic abuse shelters, are left to be supported solely through voluntary effort, inevitably those services will suffer in less affluent places where people don’t have the time or money to volunteer to help. A picture would develop where those already worst off would have access to no help at all. This kind of stripping away of the safety net that so many people rely on is quite literally a life-threatening situation for the victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Publicly funded women’s services should be a fight we never give up.”
“You have to do whatever you can, don’t you? Now more than ever,” continues Jess. “I volunteer in a food bank one afternoon a week and the people who come in, the state that their lives have got into because every safety net has been taken away from them, It’s awful. So you just do what you can – whether that’s giving money, or food, or your time.”
As well as some of the most respected comics in the UK right now, their headline act is clearly the raffle promised in their press release. “All I’m saying is that even if we didn’t have headliners like Sara Pascoe and Josie Long, you would want to come just for this raffle,” laughs Jess. Grace, on the other hand, is more reserved. “On a scale of one to infinity, I would say WE NEED A BIGGER SCALE”.
Stand Up For Rape Crisis Leicester takes place at The Y on 20th December.