Katie McPeake shares her experience of drawing strength through community
You never think it will happen to you until it does. It sneaks up on you in the most unpredictable way, an abrupt ambush on your self-sanctity. One day you are the same old you, the next you find yourself another statistic in a sea of both men and women alike. It did not happen the scary way it is so commonly portrayed in the media, with some shifty stranger in unfamiliar surroundings, like the well-feared dark alley we are warned not to walk down alone. Perhaps what was much scarier, what they don’t warn you about, is the proximity of the perpetrator in your life.
For so long I blamed myself; I blamed carelessly intoxicating my body beyond its limits. It was much easier to accept that it was an evening of alcohol-fuelled recklessness, just a drunken regret, than to acknowledge the harsh reality of the situation. Confusion plagued me as the definition I created for myself became blurred, constantly filled with self-doubt and denial. I did not want to speak up in fear of not being taken seriously. I feared that because my situation did not fit the societal stereotype, that it was not valid.
Let me tell you, it is valid. It was only through opening up to close friends and confiding in them that I came to this understanding. I realised that I should not have been frightened to explain my experience as by doing so I found a supportive network of peers. I sadly found out that too many of those dearest to me had been through something similar; a heart-breaking proportion of young women in my life also affected by this. We found solidarity in our heartache, bonded over the waves of survivor’s guilt. I was no longer alone.
Following the devastating news of Rape Crisis Scotland’s funding being cut, I instantly knew I had to help. This indispensable charity has been there for so many, working wonders for a community often shamed by society for their experiences; a charity that helps women realise they are not alone and that they are most certainly not to blame. So many suffer in silence that I decided I wanted to create a safe space, a harmonious ambience where people felt comfortable to discuss their pasts and show how they have grown. I wanted people to experience the same solidarity I had been so lucky to find. It was then I came up with the idea for Words for Wounds.
A spoken word night seemed appropriate as it allowed a creative outlet for people to freely express themselves. Words for Wounds, so brilliantly named by my close friend, was designed to be a healing space, a place to leave feeling empowered and enlightened. With the name decided, I contacted the West End staple that is Tchai-Ovna about hosting my event there. This place is truly a safe haven, tucked away with its cosy interior, comforting fairy lights and soul-warming pots of tea – I couldn’t think of a better venue. As I was waiting for a reply, I decided to contact two friends who are local artists, inviting them to sell their work at my event, both of whom decided to create custom illustrations and prints for the evening. Being friends with writers also had its perks when it came to the organisation, as my friends enthusiastically volunteered to read their work aloud. I was delighted when the wonderful staff of Tchai-Ovna wholeheartedly supported me and within the space of a few hours, the event was organised.
All that was left to do was to spread the word through social media, where the Facebook event received more attention than I ever thought it would. Due to the overwhelming interest, I decided a raffle would be a great way to raise extra funds on the night. I contacted Glasgow based author Chris McQueer, who donated a signed copy of his book, and Roobs from GRLCLB who gifted Words for Wounds an extensive collection of hand printed t-shirts and tote bags. From there, I received a plethora of prizes from other Glasgow based companies, which created a real sense of community as people really do make Glasgow. This city is truly magical in terms of making things happen.
I was, and still am, in shock as I cannot believe that this small event I single-handedly organised ended up raising over £450 for Glasgow Rape Crisis. The process itself allowed me, and so many others, to heal and become empowered by our experiences. I finally attained that crucial step of closure through the support and encouragement of my peers, but also through the kindness of my city. I hope that others can learn from this, learn that they can turn their negative experiences into positives, and learn that you are never alone, that someone, somewhere will always be there to support you, especially in this wonderful city.
If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, contact Glasgow Rape Crisis at [email protected] or on 08088 000014.