Skip to main content

29th November 2022

An afternoon at Manchester Rape Crisis

An interview with Manchester Rape Crisis’ Chief Executive Officer, one of the partner charities for this year’s Reclaim the Night campaign
An afternoon at Manchester Rape Crisis
Photo: The Mancunion

Trigger Warning: this article contains detailed references to sexual violence and rape. If you are seeking support, or just have questions about an experience you’ve had, you can call Manchester Rape Crisis’ helpline on 0161273 4500.

Walking into Manchester Rape Crisis, you’re immediately introduced to everybody and offered a cup of tea. With a slightly eclectic mug collection, and a very accurate memory of how many sugars you asked for, the staff and volunteers instantly relax you.

It’s a women-led space for women only. The entire facility is rather quiet as there’s often counselling in session upstairs. Safe is undoubtedly the word to describe it.

Our team met Anne, the Chief Executive Officer, who gave us a little tour. The office is dotted with your classic feminist posters, with a few Harry Potter quotes about bravery up on the wall too. The ‘feminist as f*ck’ poster in Anne’s office was a gift, and a slightly controversial one at that, she let us know.

We then sat down for a chat about what Manchester Rape Crisis do from day to day. The charity has a number of services including a telephone helpline, free face to face counselling and group work. They also provide specialist support for women who wish to report to the police.

Other services include a counselling service for women in HMP Styal. Anne and her team also provide arrange of group work including both therapy groups and social groups.

Upon being asked why a women-led space is so important, Anne told us it’s a common question the charity receives. The charity work very closely with Manchester Survivors, a service which supports male survivors. Anne noted that she once asked the manager there if they ever get that kind of question, to which he said no.

“I think it’s always interesting that women’s services are asked, why do you want to be women-led?”

Manchester Rape Crisis is clearly modelled on and always improving from survivor feedback. Survivors tell the charity that this is the kind of space they want and feel a lot safer in. Anne highlighted that it’s also important to model to people what recovery can look like. With a lot of the women who work at the charity being survivors themselves, it’s clear that the presence of female only staff works to dismantle the idea that sexual violence will leave victims permanently damaged or unable to function.

With that in mind, Manchester Rape Crisis do without a doubt support trans and non-binary individuals. There’s currently two trans flags hanging from the front of the building.

A prevalent issue among young female survivors can be not realising the full gravity of what has happened to them, or even that they have been assaulted altogether. Anne explained that sometimes it’s important for the service to name instances as rape, even when survivors can’t. Often Manchester Rape Crisis are asked why the word is even in their title. To this Anne says, if the service can’t say it, how can they expect anybody else to be able to.

The service however doesn’t expect those who call the helpline to necessarily use the word rape themselves. But to them, it’s important that a helpline operator can name it for a woman who may be doubting or blaming herself following an instance sexual violence.

“I would say if something’s happened to you, and you’re not sure, speak to somebody because sometimes just verbalising something can help to really focus your own thoughts and feelings around something. Then, if you get the appropriate response, which hopefully you do, that puts you on the path to trying to find support and information.”

Similarly, we asked Anne’s advice for women who are struggling to seek support for fear of being blamed or not being believed. She assured us that fear of not being believed is the number one reason, when you speak to survivors, why people don’t tell somebody. Manchester Rape Crisis are not, in Anne’s words, “here to investigate anything you tell us. If you say this has happened to you we will believe you and we will offer you the support that we can.”

With regard to being blamed, Anne explained that it’s one challenge that society will blame you. But it’s an even harder challenge that we have all internalised those myths of shame and believing that we should have fought back.

“The fault always lies with the perpetrator. You have every right to be drunk, every right to be out walking late at night. It’s not your fault if somebody decides to take advantage of that situation and do something to you.”

Manchester Rape Crisis offer a student specific service. Given the length of their waiting list, they felt it was important to set up a tailored service. As often students would come to the top of the waiting list for counselling and have gone home for three months over summer, or even graduated. This service is vital, as Anne details you’re most likely to be raped between the ages of 18 to 24.

The charity receives funding to see four female students a week, but they actually see 28 a week. They subsidise these costs themselves. There’s currently a waiting list of 42 female students waiting for counselling.

One of the specific services offered by the charity is an Asian Women’s Group. I asked Anne why it’s so important to have these kinds of groups tailored to the specific needs of different groups of women.

She acknowledged that for any survivor of sexual violence, there’s responses shared widely across the board. Yet, there are particular barriers for different sections of society that might come about when accessing the service. Anne detailed that English isn’t the language that everybody feels most comfortable of confident expressing themselves in. Likewise, whilst shame is a common response among survivors, there are cultural elements to shame that require tailored cultural responses.

“I also think it’s very important that people can see people that look like them or that are from the same background as them so that they can feel included.”

Anne is personally looking forward to this year’s Reclaim the Night march. She explained her love for the march lies in the fact that, “it’s fun, it really is fun.” The charity run banner making workshops beforehand where survivors, staff and volunteers all come together.

Finally, in Anne’s own words, you can always ring the helpline. Nobody will expect you to talk about anything you don’t feel comfortable talking about. But even if you just want to ask questions about what’s happened to you, at Manchester Rape Crisis they feel their service is a really good place to start. She reminded us to never underestimate how hard it can be to speak about what’s happened to you. The charity has spoken to women in the 60s and 80s who have never spoken about their experience before.

Speaking up can take longer than other people might realise, with life events often triggering a need to talk to somebody. You don’t have to speak up the next day and friends shouldn’t push individuals to report.

The helpline is open from 10-4 every day, also 6-9 every Wednesday and Thursday. The number is 0161 273 4500. You can also email [email protected].

Libby Elliott

Libby Elliott

News and Current Affairs Managing Editor | Awarded Outstanding Contribution to The Mancunion and Fuse TV Presenter of the Year at the 2023 MMG Awards | Former Co-Investigations Editor | Shortlisted for the SPA2022 Rising Star Award |

More Coverage

Colour and community: How a Fallowfield gardening project is making the community blossom

Native flowers, wild grasses and garden herbs — community group ‘Fallowfield Tree Bases’ are planting more than new bulbs but rather sowing the seeds for a more vibrant and collaborative neighbourhood.

Activist Peter Singer speaks out on student protests and veganism

Animal rights activist Peter Singer sits down with the Mancunion to discuss a need for greater student activism and non-violent protests despite their controversy

How Mayfield Park is turning an abandoned space into a Mancunian heartland

Mayfield Park is quickly turning a once abandoned space into a core, green part of Manchester’s urban life. But how did the site’s developers turn a once disregarded lot into a natural Mancunian paradise?

How helping an older neighbour had given me much more than a chance to volunteer

As we grow older, we grow more detached from the world, often without choice. However, Manchester tackles issues of isolation and the generational gap with its community programmes, sparking life back into the retirement years.