“I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.” British MP Michelle Thomson made that courageous statement on December 8, when she told the House of Commons about her rape at age 14 and its long-term consequences. Decades had passed before Thomson made this public declaration. Like many sexual violence survivors, shame, fear, and a culture of silence deterred her from getting immediate help.
Now, having positioned itself as an international leader in the fight against sexual violence, the UK should recognize that ending violence against women begins at home. “To be honest, looking back, at that point I don’t think I knew what rape was,” said Thomson. “It was not something that was talked about.”
We hope Thomson’s words will move other women and girls to come forward and get the help they need. When they do, the UK should ensure that medical, psychosocial, and legal services are there for them, and let these survivors know they are not alone. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention is a crucial step.