The Together association is changing society’s view of rape
Emma Blomdahl and Julia Östfeldt met at an emergency room for raped women at the Stockholm South General Hospital (Södersjukhuset). They were both participating in a therapy group for young women who had been raped. During the conversations in the therapy group, Emma noticed that a majority of the women were saying things like “It wasn’t really a rape because he didn’t hit me.”
– Over the course of the weeks that I participated in group therapy, I became more and more aware that society thinks that only the classic rape scenario should be regarded as rape and nothing else. And that this affects those who are subjected to rape in an extremely powerful way. I felt that we had to tell everyone that that’s not what rape actually looks like, says Emma.
Emma and Julia decided to produce a photographic exhibition comprised of pictures of women who had been raped – an exhibition where the women got to tell their own stories, to show that it can happen to anyone, that there is no typical rape victim, and that there isn’t only one type of rape. They won the 10,000 SEK they needed to carry out the project in a competition, and at the same time they were asked to give a talk at Julia’s old secondary school. During this talk, Emma and Julia realised that the problem was much bigger than they would ever have imagined, and that a photo exhibition would not be enough to change people’s views about rape. They decided to start the Together association in August 2014, and since then they have been giving talks at different places across Sweden, have received a great deal of media attention, and have started a support group. Their goal is to prevent sexual violence by sharing their own experiences.
What advice would you give to other young people who want to start an association?
– Research the market. Check whether someone else is already doing the same thing. Have the courage to resist the vanity of wanting to run the project yourself and join in with organisations that already exist. You shouldn’t run a project just for the sake of running a project, but for the sake of the contents. It may be important to think like a business. Society is organised to produce profits, and you can play along with that, but take out the profit in forms other than money. We wouldn’t have been able to get funding, for example, if there had already been an organisation with exactly the same goal, so you have to think in terms of a market. It sounds incredibly dull when the thing you want is to change the world. We usually say that we want to change the world, but in the meantime we have to adapt to it. It’s important, because if you want to change the world, you have to take account of what the playing field actually looks like.
Text: Lucella Bergström