Hanging up our superhero suits: Why we don’t ‘rescue victims’
The temptation to rescue can be massive when supporting those who have experienced trauma through sexual exploitation. We meet the woman behind the referral form, we hear the stories of abuse, the frustrating barriers she faces. We also see the potential for change, the potential for barriers to be overcome and recovery to begin and we want to do everything we can to make that happen.
While well-meaning, sometimes our attempts to rush in and fix everything can feel similar to the exploitation itself - the woman is being ‘done to’.
In challenging the victim/ rescue narrative we are by no means suggesting that being sexually exploited is in any way someone’s fault – quite the opposite. But we believe that the identity of ‘victim’ does not have to continue to be the story of the courageous, resilient, inspiring women we have the privilege of coming alongside.
A common part of someone’s experience of sexual exploitation is choice being taken away – through coercion, through circumstances or a combination of both. We blogged about how that can play out here. We are keen to create an environment in which that cycle can be broken, in which as soon as possible, she is involved in making choices about her future, the support she receives, her training and employment options, her relationships, where she lives next. Then she can go on choosing long after she leaves Orchards.
That is also why our first resident is helping to shape our second flat and we are extremely grateful for that- her voice is so important and her understanding of how we can best support the next women referred to us is far more insightful than our own ideas!
In our team, we challenge each other to make sure we are hanging up our superhero capes – mine was very tatty anyway. We get to come alongside, to encourage and get ourselves out of the way, so that growth, nurture and recovery can truly begin to happen.