SECTIONS
What would you like to know?
Share this Story
/

'Notes of Love' help victims of sexual assault reclaim their bodies

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

'My Body Back' project enlists students to write anonymous messages of support for rape victims

From SheKnows UK
A student nurse who was raped as a teenager is helping other victims connect with their bodies again, something that is often extremely difficult to do after sexual assault.

Londoner Pavan Amara, 27, was raped in her teens and struggled to find the long-term support she needed. So she set up her own project, called My Body Back, in North London to help women who’ve survived sexual assault feel comfortable with their bodies again.

Reflecting on her own experience, Pavan told the Daily Mail that, although the emotional support she received from Rape Crisis in the immediate aftermath of the rape was great, "there was no counselling for the long-term effects."

My Body Back holds monthly meetings — known as Café V — in Sh!, a Shoreditch sex shop, and runs a clinic offering sensitive cervical smear and sexual health tests at The Kenton and Lucas Wing at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.

More: Loose Women's "rape poll" causes outrage

“Café V helps [women] to learn to connect with the body again,” said Pavan. “It's important to feel you are you again after rape. Someone has used sex as a weapon against them. We have a laugh though, it's not all doom and gloom — we have cake and tea and have a chat together. It's important for women to focus on their own physical sensations again.”

The My Body Back project was set up after Pavan spoke to 30 sexual assault survivors and found that they felt the same way she did after her rape. Some were so anxious during sex they threw up or passed out, even years after the attack. Routine procedures like smear tests and sexual health checks were impossible due to the memories they triggered. Another big issue was body image. Pavan herself described how she "didn't even have photos taken and couldn't look in the mirror."

One of My Body Back’s initiatives involves university students — male and female — writing anonymous “Notes of Love” to victims to offer support and encouragement.

More: Pretenders' lead singer has heartbreaking take on her sexual assault

Students from universities across the U.K. write messages on heart-shaped notes, which are then displayed in Crisis and forensic testing centres. “I know myself it's very easy to feel blame and think it's your fault,” said Pavan. “It’s a vulnerable time and the idea is that women take a note of support they connect with and keep it. I was at the University of Cambridge notes of love session and saw so many men lining up to write one. Think how amazing that would feel for any woman who has been a victim of sexual assault but hasn't shared that, to see people wanting to support them.”

Café V is now launching in cities around the U.K. and Pavan hopes to take her workshops to the U.S. too.

For more information about the project visit My Body Back. If you've been affected by sexual violence you can speak to someone in confidence by calling Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999 (England and Wales) or 08088 01 03 02 (Scotland).

More: Why a personal rape alarm could be sending the wrong message

Tagged in
Comments
Follow Us

SheKnows Media ‐ Beauty and Style

Hot
New in Love
Close

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!