Trigger warning: mentions of domestic abuse, sexual violence, sexual assault, abuse, rape, forced marriage, coercive control, mental health.
On 25th January every year, Wales dedicates a day to celebrate love and resilience.
St. Dwynwen’s Day honors the Welsh patron saint of lovers. However, behind the commonly known narrative of Dwynwen promoting loving relationships lies a less discussed but equally crucial aspect of her story—she was a survivor. Dwynwen’s legacy, rooted in her survival of rape by her lover and an attempted forced marriage by her father, resonates with the challenges faced by sexual violence survivors. She prayed for a life free from marriage, for safety and for others to have the opportunity to have loving and happy partnerships. So, while St. Dwynwen’s Day traditionally focuses on love and relationships, it also provides a vital opportunity to address the pervasive issue of sexual violence and the urgency to recognize the need for collective action to create safer environments for all.
The Reality of Sexual and Domestic Abuse:
While days dedicated to celebrating love often revolve around romanticized notions of relationships and can get reduced to gestures and tokens, it’s imperative to acknowledge the darker side. Women remain at a disproportionately high risk of facing domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women and girls. According to Crime Statistics in England and Wales, over 1.1 million adults aged 16 and above experienced sexual assault in the year ending March 2022, with 798,000 women among the victims. Intimate partner violence constitutes a significant portion of these cases, where more than four in five victims experienced non-physical abuse (84.3%), sexual assault (12.9%), and stalking (20.8%), according to the Office for National Statistics.
While strides have been made in acknowledging and addressing sexual violence, the justice system’s response remains a critical aspect requiring continuous improvement. The Crown Court is currently grappling with an unprecedented backlog, reaching a peak of 8,741 cases related to sexual offences, including 2,210 cases specifically involving adult rape This backlog is having severe consequences for the mental health and recovery of victims and survivors, hindering their ability to overcome the trauma they have endured. Essential protective measures, such as enforcing bail conditions, addressing breaches of non-molestation orders, utilising Domestic Violence Protection Measures, ando implementing Clare’s Law, are not being appropriately employed to safeguard the well-being of women and girls. Moreover, there is a notable lack of understanding regarding the impact of violence against women and girls on survivors. Ensuring that survivors receive the support they need, and perpetrators are held accountable is an ongoing challenge that demands comprehensive reform.
Whether you are currently living with abuse, have done in the past or you are concerned that someone you know might be, help is available. The Live Fear Free Helpline offers confidential support, a compassionate ear, and practical assistance 24/7 for individuals—women, men, and children—undergoing or impacted by sexual violence or domestic abuse in Wales. It serves as a lifeline, providing guidance for those concerned about a friend, family member, or colleague and facilitating connections with local specialist services throughout Wales.
The Impact of Sexual Violence on Mental Health:
Beyond the immediate physical trauma, sexual violence has lasting effects on survivors’ mental health. The aftermath of such experiences often includes anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health challenges. Recognizing these implications is crucial in developing comprehensive support systems that address both the physical and mental well-being of survivors.
You can take action this St. Dwynwen’s Day by playing a role in amplifying community awareness and prevention efforts. By fostering conversations about healthy relationships, consent, and the prevalence of sexual violence, we can all contribute to dismantling the stigma surrounding survivors and creating a culture that prioritises empathy, understanding, and intervention.
St. Dwynwen’s Day serves as a poignant reminder that love should be nurturing, respectful, and free from harm. It prompts a call to action to create a world where all individuals, especially women, can live without fear and with the freedom to pursue their dreams. Dwynwen’s wish for lovers’ happiness aligns with the broader goal of fostering a society where everyone can engage in consensual, respectful relationships. Raising awareness about sexual violence becomes a crucial step in creating an environment that prioritises the well-being of all individuals.
So, this St. Dwynwen’s Day, let’s actively participate to raise awareness, break the cycle of abuse, and foster a community where love is synonymous with safety and respect. By extending the conversation, supporting survivors, and advocating for systemic change that lasts, we contribute to building a society where every individual can experience love without the shadows of sexual violence.
Anyone experiencing violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence, or abuse, or those concerned about somebody at risk – support is available to you now. Live Fear Free is a confidential and independent helpline that can provide advice and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 0808 80 10 800 / text 07860077333 / email [email protected].