THE BLOG

Remembering Jill Saward

09/01/2017 09:05 | Updated 09 January 2017
PA Wire

Like everyone else who has lived in Britain and is old enough, I vividly remember the Ealing Vicarage Rape case, it was a shocking crime, which fed into many women's fears. Four men broke into the vicarage in Ealing, in 1986 attacking Jill's father and her then boyfriend. Jill was taken upstairs, told to undress and raped repeatedly, by two of the men. It was always clear to all women that this was a horrific ordeal for any woman to survive. Jill was only 21 years old at the time and the courage she then showed, when she decided to waive her right to lifelong anonymity (granted to all complainants in sexual offences cases) and become a campaigner, was and is stunning. She stuck with it too; she carried on working for change for those who are victimised right up to her untimely death, at the age of 51, last week.

In the interim period, I became a support worker at rape crisis, a campaigner and (eventually) an academic, working on rape and other issues around sexual violence. Jill continued to be someone I admired and, a few years ago, she also became someone I had the privilege to get to know. Jill was brave, steadfast, a warrior for rape survivors and a heroine to many. She was also warm, kind, loving and really good fun. Reading this, you will know by now that I am one of the many who is missing her badly. Her stroke and then her death were shocking and painful to many. She leaves behind a loving family, who are struggling to come to terms with what has happened. She also leaves a small army of friends, who are determined to keep her name and her work alive.

I don't know what the next scandal about rape is going to be, but I know there will be one. Over the years, Jill, myself and many other women have struggled against ridiculous comments by judges (such as that Jill herself has suffered No great trauma); defendants wanting to cross-examine the women they raped, in person; definitions of sexual offences and lenient sentences. Jill and her close friend Alison Boydell founded JURIES (Jurors understanding rape is [an] essential standard) to work towards the elimination of rape myths and stereotypes. The fundamental idea being that no jury can make the best decisions on sexual offences cases, if their heads are filled with false ideas about rape. The work of JURIES will continue, and many women are coming forward to get involved.

Whatever that next scandal is, the outcry will be bigger than ever, in response. So many women are determined to carry on the work that Jill started that there may well be a queue waiting to take press interviews (something Jill was always willing to undertake) and set up petitions. If you too would like to get involved then you can. You can sign up to JURIES (on Twitter @UnderstandingSV and/or Facebook) and you can give a donation, in Jill's memory. This will enable those who love Jill to make sure that her name and her work live on. Thank you. Please donate, via RASA.

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