Dear William Hague: about that ‘Gender Justice’ T-Shirt… An Open Letter to @WilliamJHague

Dear Mr Hague

I was watching Channel 4 News the other night as I was eating my tea, and I was interested to see the coverage of your recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda with Angelia Jolie, part your commitment to make tackling war zone rape a G8 priority.

You know the figures better than I, I am sure. The 400,000 women and girls raped in Rwanda; the 200,000 in the Congo, 50,000 in Bosnia and 64,000 in Sierra Leone. On their own these figures fail to convey the horror, trauma, devastation and brutality of war zone rape or the generations of women for whom life is made a shattered, fragmented nightmare.

You’ve pledged money to this, which is brilliant, because money talks so I can be pretty confident that you are taking this seriously. That money, I know, will help those on the ground – including those who are doing what they can to help these women piece together their shattered lives.

I think it was when I saw you wearing the ‘Gender Justice’ t-shirt that I wondered if you might consider applying that same commitment to gender justice right here in the UK. The 2011 CPS report on VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) showed a 38% rise from 2006/7 to 2010-11 in prosecutions of rape and domestic violence cases: up from 68,930 (of reported incidents) to 95, 257 (of reported incidents).  It is, of course, a positive thing that the CPS are taking more of these cases seriously: in a culture where victims of rape and sexual assaults are so often blamed, the further CPS report on the rarity of false rape accusations I hope will go some way (as Keir Starmer said) to dispel the ‘damaging myths and stereotypes’ that make reporting rape so difficult for victims in this country.

Services here in the UK which support women and girls who have endured rape and domestic violence have, however, come under serious threat recently. Between 2010 and 2012, 31% of local government funding to VAWG services was cut – and when taken in the context of the overall local authority budget cuts of 27%, that’s staggering.  Womens Aid report turning away 230 women in 2011 due to lack of resources, and there is every indication that this number will increase.

Those few figures on their own do nothing to convey the reality on the ground for the women and girls affected: who, when at their most vulnerable, are left without the proper professional support they need to begin to heal from rape and violence.

It is impossible to convey to you what it feels like to be raped: to be so utterly invaded, to be abused in a way that so strips you of your value and identity. It is hard to describe what it is like to feel so isolated, and so ashamed. So I am not sure I can convey how important it is to have that help, and those services, there.

Gender justice is needed everywhere. It is needed here in the UK too.

Thank you for taking the time to read this Mr Hague.

Yours sincerely