‘Every man, be part of the solution’, says Johanna Robinson

Gemma Dunstan
BBC Wales Live

5 hours ago

Wales’ national adviser on violence against women and girls has revealed she is a survivor of rape.

Johanna Robinson said she was speaking publicly for the first time “on behalf of all of the people who can’t say it or choose not to say it”.

She said she was raped in her early 20s, by a man she knew, while she was asleep. 

She says it took her a while to understand what had happened to her.

Johanna says it took her a while to understand that she had been raped

“I knew something not right had happened but I couldn’t articulate it,” she said.

“No one had described what rape was to me, I just thought it was unwanted sex – but of course, that is rape.”

A few years after, she reported what had happened to the police.

It did not result in a conviction but she says the officer that worked with her was  “amazing” and that she would urge people to use the justice system.

‘I want it to stop’

Johanna hopes her story, which she has already shared with police to help with training, will encourage others to come forward.

“For those who have had these experiences who are thinking about saying something, they may feel able to say something, because they can identify with it,” she said.

“For those who never say it, for them to know that their experience is recognised – you don’t have to say it for it to be true.

“The other thing is if people don’t have the personal experience, I want them to know that it happens and to join in anyway to support it.

“And really I do it because I want it to stop, whatever that takes.”

Johanna said she acknowledges these crimes do also happen to men and boys, and encourages them to be part of the solution. 

Johanna Robinson also says she was harassed at the south Wales derby

In September 2023, Johanna spoke publicly about being harassed at a Cardiff City FC game

She said she felt a responsibility to speak out but expected judgement as a result.

She says although many were supportive she saw comments online saying she should be flattered and that she was too old and ugly to be harassed, while another claimed she had done it to benefit her job role.

“It does happen to ugly old women like me, that’s the label I’m happy to take if it shows that it does happen to anyone,” she said.

Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman urges victims to seek support from the police

In the year ending September 2023, 67,983 rapes were reported in Wales and England, police data shows.

The latest figures breaking down reports by gender show 72% were made by women in the year ending March 2022.

Johanna has worked on initiatives such as the Welsh government’s Sound campaign which encourages young men to learn about gender-based violence.

Johanna decision to share her story has been described as ‘courageous and brave’ by Amanda Blakeman, North Wales Police’s chief constable and the Wales lead for violence against women and girls.

She describes violence against women and girls as a complex crime which is changing as society and technology develops.

“I’ve worked in public protection and sexual offending in my 32 years of service, we are in a far better place than we’ve ever been but I’m not complacent,”

She said there is a key focus on perpetrator programmes in order to break the cycle on abuse.

“It should never be about this is a victims responsibility to stop it, it’s the perpetrators responsibility to understand that their behaviour is escalating”.

Johanna Robinson says she was raped in her early 20s

‘Pick up the phone’

Ms Blakeman says the Welsh government’s focus on making Wales the safest place for women in Europe is a priority for the four police forces in Wales.

She was asked about public perception following high-profile cases of officers harming women – such as South Wales officer Lewis Edwards who was jailed in October 2023 for grooming children for indecent images on snapchat.

She said: “I don’t underestimate the damage that is done by one individual that undermines all of that for the good officers that are out there every single day.

“We are on the front foot to make sure that those individuals have no place in policing.

“Anyone out there finding themselves in a position they feel unsafe and unhappy – please pick up the phone let us know, and let us have the opportunity to work with you to break that cycle of abuse.”

Ann Williams, Welsh Women’s Aid helpline manager, said Johanna speaking out is powerful.

“For some it will help give them permission to talk about it, and give them the green light to realise it is ok to talk about it,” she said.

Rape Crisis CEO, Ciara Bergman, said the organisation was “incredibly moved by Johanna Robinson’s courage in speaking out about her personal experience of rape”.

“No survivor of violence or abuse should ever face stigma or shame in speaking out about what has happened to them, but far too many still do,” she said.

There will be more on this story on BBC Wales Live at 22:40 on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 28 February

If you have been affected by any issues raised, help and support can be found at BBC Action Line

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