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Guest blog: Soroptomists Railing against Abuse

Posted: Monday 4th December 2017
Blog: 2017
The purpose of the Railing against Abuse event isto raise awareness of domestic abuse andto distribute ‘Loves me, Loves me not’ bookmarks more widely.

In 2015 Tara Newley Arkle, the daughter of Dame Joan Collins, had seen ‘Loves me, Loves me not’ bookmarks on a Soroptomists stand in Weston-super-Mare.  She was familiar with them from her work with local organisations dealing with domestic abuse, all of whom considered them a very useful tool. She wanted to obtain more of them and was introduced to SI Weston-super-Mare’s PA Officer, Melanie David.  As they talked Tara envisioned a day when many bookmarks would be distributed in the area and Melanie suggested November 25th, UN Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  A committee of enthusiastic club members was recruited and Soroptomists Railing against Abuse was born!  It took place in 2015 and 2016 and this year, 2017, it was bigger than ever.

Soroptomists from the whole of the South West get on a train from their home town, travel to Bristol, giving out bookmarks en route, and carrying banners, pictured.  They then walk through the streets, continuing to give out bookmarks, arriving at the Lord Mayor’s chapel where they are addressed by several speakers.  This year on Saturday, November 25, over 60 Soroptomists and other local people took part in the rally, coming from as far as 120 miles away!  We were joined by representatives from domestic abuse organisations, including victims, and some relatives – including men!  We gathered at the station then marched through the streets, encountering many people.  We were filmed for TV (and featured on the local news that evening).

Dame Joan Collins had agreed to take part because domestic abuse is a cause she is championing as part of her charity work and joined the march near the Chapel.  Inside the chapel SI Weston-super-Mare’s President, Ruth Thomas, introduced the speakers.  Speakers included Bristol Lord Mayor Cllr Lesley Alexander, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, Victim Support’s Jodi Collett, then Tara Arkle who introduced her mother Dame Joan Collins. They all spoke very movingly about domestic abuse. The video of the speeches is available at www.facebook.com/AandSPCC/videos/1898446690168675/.  This was followed by a buffet funded by a local school and served by members of SI Bristol.  The day was declared to be a great success by all involved.

So, what did we achieve?  Over 10,000 bookmarks were printed beforehand, funded by the Commissioner’s Community Action Fund.  Many hundreds of these were distributed on the day and Soroptomists Clubs were distributing them beforehand and will continue to do so during the 16 days of activism.  SI Weston-super-Mare has been offering them to schools in our area and thousands have been and are to be delivered. 

In the future, we shall continue to hold this event on November 25 and we very much hope that the idea will grow and spread more widely.  Next year we know WI clubs are interested in joining us and we would love to see Soroptomists from all over the UK railing to London! SI Weston-super-Mare feels that not only does this project raise awareness of violence against women, especially domestic abuse, but also by distributing bookmarks the group attempts to actively do something to reduce domestic abuse.

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