‘In Their Words’

‘In Their Words’

Green light for the ‘PARCS Grows Everybody’ Rape Crisis oral history project, exploring the legacy of Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service.

photo: Contact Photography

Violence against women has hit a record high — in 2021, recorded rapes in England and Wales increased by 13% from 2020. Survivors and activists must be heard, learning from the past to fight for a future free from sexual assault.

This project is extremely timely and could be replicated in other local areas: young local activists will document the stories of the older women who originally established PARCS – Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service – through a blog, social media, a final exhibition, school resources and a permanent home for the archive both online and at the Portsmouth History Centre.

The PARCS Grows Everybody project is an opportunity to commemorate and publicise the legacy of this pioneering feminist organisation. The Institute is collaborating with partners including local oral history experts, former and present PARCS staff, young local activists, and University of Portsmouth students.

The project encourages dialogue around this stigmatised subject and sheds light on the experiences of marginalised groups. These include male survivors as well as BAME and LGBTQ+ communities. Kim Hosier, supporting the project as a Community Engager Consultant, is excited about these intersectional elements:

It will teach us much about the power of grassroots coalition – for example, across class, race, age, sexuality, and gender – to bring about change.”

Gemma Green, who coordinates this Young Feminist Collective, believes diversity is vital to eradicating gender-based violence:

I am inspired by the intergenerational element of the project, in which young people will record the stories of these women – after all, their work is still needed to end men’s violence against women.”

Dr Anna Cole, Oral History Consultant to PARCS Grows Everybody, said:

At a time when this sector is over-stretched and under-resourced, this project will create a more inclusive heritage for Portsmouth for all to engage with.”

The stories will be shared on digital and physical platforms, inspiring future generations of activists. The Portsmouth History Centre (PHC), through Portsmouth City Council, is a project partner and will house the archive. Dr John Stedman, Archivist and Records Manager at PHC, said:

PARCS necessarily works outside the public eye to preserve the confidentiality of those it helps. The archive will be a permanent record of these remarkable women’s achievements.”

PARCS supported survivors of sexual and domestic violence for over 40 years. Established by grassroots feminist activists in 1981, it was a linchpin of the local community, helping people of all genders and backgrounds. In 2021, PARCS merged with Family Action, a larger charity that continues to support survivors. As time passes, it is important to reflect and recognise the unique history of PARCS.

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and its project partners have received a £166,707 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

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