The women’s liberation movement and the anti-rape movement and Rape Crisis Centres around the world to which it gave birth changed the way rape was understood socially and legally. These centres helped to influence police, medical and criminal justice procedures and substantive law. They have assisted and supported millions of individual women. They are a truly remarkable example of women working together to improve women’s lives.
On 15 March 1976 the first Rape Crisis Centre (LRCC) opened in North London. Its aims were to offer ‘sympathetic non-judgemental support, advice and information on police and legal procedures for those women who chose to report’, and ultimately, ‘to help raped women regain their strength as individuals’ (Victoria Green, ‘Crisis Centre Opens’). The original LRCC collective of about 10 women maintained a 24 hour telephone line and offered face to face support and medical referrals. They engaged in research, public education and training of new support workers.
The significance of the achievement of this small collective of women and the anti-rape movement of which they were a part is difficult to overestimate. Not only did the LRCC provide an essential and unique service for survivors at a time when the social and legal culture of rape was extremely hostile to them, it paved the way for Rape Crisis Centres across the UK. Further and crucially, it did all of its work in a way which was true to its beliefs: it merged ‘theory and practice’ by operating as a feminist collective committed to eliminating hierarchies of power from the ground up (Helen Jones and Kate Cook, Rape Crisis Responding to Sexual Violence (Russell House Publishing 2008) 3).
The full version of this landmark is written by Alison Diduck.
Sisterhood and After Research Team, ‘Campaigns and Protests of the Women’s Liberation Movement’ (British Library, 8 March 2013) https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/articles/campaigns-and-protests-of-the-womens-liberation-movement
Rape Crisis: England and Wales, ‘Who We Are and What We Do’ https://rapecrisis.org.uk/historyofrapecrisis.php