"Why I'm fighting back to help rape victims" | Cosmopolitan
1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence in the UK. Depressing isn't it? That means you probably know someone who's been assaulted. Yet for years after, sexual violence can still affect victims. This is something Pavan Amara, 28 - and our Ultimate Empowerment Pioneer at this year's Ultimate Women Awards - quickly realised after she was raped as a teenager.
"There is a lot of short-term help out there, but there isn't much for the long term," Pavan told us. "I felt really isolated and thought I was the only person experiencing it, so I knew I needed to do something."
After speaking to other women who had suffered sexual violence, Pavan realised that many of them avoided vital health care (such as STI checks or even general check ups) after the attack. As a result, Pavan set up the innovative My Body Back Project in August 2014, the first of its kind. With the help of nurses and consultants at St Bartholomew's hospital in London, the My Body Back Project offers a specialised clinic to help sexual assault victims with cervical smears and essential check ups in a safe and controlled environment.
"The women I spoke to wanted a number of things at a clinic: a consultation first, nurses to know what had happened without intrusive questions and complete control over the procedure, such as the position of the doctor or certain music," explains Pavan. "One woman previously had a nurse tell her to 'relax' which was what her rapist said to her, so with these small changes, it's easy to make a huge difference."
But she didn't stop there. Alongside the clinic, Pavan also initiated the Notes of Love campaign where thousands of positive post-it notes are distributed at Rape Crisis centres and universities all over the UK, to give support to those who have experienced sexual violence. Additionally, her monthly session at the Sh! Women's Store in London, tackles topics on sex, from orgasms and penetration to masturbation and fantasies after an attack.
"This is something I feel really strongly about. The fault is always on the rapist so why should the woman pay for the rest of her life by risking her health or no longer enjoying sex?" Pavan told us. "An amazing moment for me was seeing a woman come out my London clinic on the first day it opened. She had such a look of relief on her face, having had her first test in over a decade after her attack. We've even had two women travel from Barcelona to the UK just to use the clinic!"
With Pavan's clinic booked up for the rest of the year and a waiting list of over 100 women, it shows an obvious need for it, and she's now aiming to expand throughout the UK, as well as opening an STI self-testing clinic.
"Our next plan is to open clinics in different regions," says Pavan. "As a culture we don't really talk about sexual assault and there is still a stigma of shame on the victim. But that's slowly changing and knowing that I've given everything I can for these women to make a difference is such an amazing feeling."
Read the article at Cosmopolitan