You may have noticed in recent weeks that my blog posts have featured a note at the bottom about Jill Saward. You may not fully understand why. So here is the why. It is an article that appeared in the Sentinel newspaper in the UK, written by a journalist called Sally Smith, about whom I know nothing. Not all the details in the article are correct, which tells me she is an observer, rather than being someone known to my family. Anyway, this is what she wrote:
Recent weeks have seen significant events take place, transitions from one season of leadership to another. The most obvious was the handover of power in the United States, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. This is not an easy transition, and many people are concerned about what sort of world leader Trump will turn out to be. Will his wielding of power make our world safer or more dangerous? Only time will tell.
As I think about what it means to live a life of significance that makes our world a safer place, I can’t help but think of Jill Saward, whose funeral took place at Lichfield Cathedral on January 17. Jill lived a life of significance, and through her courage she saved many lives.
Jill’s father was a vicar, and the family lived in the vicarage near to the church in Ealing. One fateful night [it was actually in the daytime] in March 1986, when the family were at home, a gang broke into the vicarage. Jill’s father Michael, and her boyfriend were both attacked, and Jill was tied up and raped. Her ordeal lasted for several hours.
When the perpetrators were brought to trial, the judge commented that her suffering was not so great. Later, Jill would reveal the enormity of the sufferings which are endured by rape victims. So many struggle like her, with dark times, attempts at suicide and failed relationships.
But Jill was determined that this experience would not define the rest of her life, and that she would turn the tragedy of what she had endured in to something that would help others. In 1990, she waived her right to anonymity, going public to bring about changes in the law where rape cases are concerned. She also helped to train police forces, judges and nurses in how to deal more sympathetically with rape victims.
Jill has helped to ease the pain for many. Julie Jones, chief executive officer for our diocese, said: “Jill was a remarkable woman who fought so hard for victims of sexual violence. “She will be remembered as a warrior for forgiveness. She was someone who turned her own suffering into a force for good, speaking up for the voiceless.”
Her willingness to waive her right to anonymity in order to speak out made her vulnerable, and yet it was in this vulnerability that she was so influential on so many levels, from one-to-one conversations with other victims, to conversations with the power brokers in the echoing chambers of Parliament. It takes a rare person to have the capacity to do this and to achieve so much, and yet that is what Jill did.
We don’t see much vulnerability in the political world do we? Donald Trump has not been elected as the President of the United States of America because he’s a vulnerable man. In fact, just the opposite. He has berated and ridiculed the vulnerable, he has exalted himself as the economic saviour of America and he has forged alliances with war-mongerers. He has spoken of women as sexual objects and of his inclination to treat them as such.
I daresay that if Jill had ever had the opportunity to meet him, he would have met his match, and she would have had plenty to say to him. Yes, I too am concerned what changes to our world Donald Trump will bring about, and to be honest I’m not sure that we will be any safer, I seriously doubt it.
However, I can say with complete confidence that for women who have been raped, both within and outside of marriage, they are safer because Jill has been here. We are safer today because Jill spoke out, because she wasn’t afraid to have her say and to overcome the shame of her experience to help others overcome their’s.
So there you have it. Jill was my little sister, who died of a brain haemorrhage recently at the age of 51. I think it is important for her work to continue, which is why I am raising money. There’s a lot of money in motor racing and I want some of it to go to this cause. If you can help, please click here