Messages of hope and empowerment will help those affected by sexual violence, thanks to a fundraising campaign launched by a woman who was supported through two years of rape counselling.
Chelsea Heaton-Penington and her friend Pip Smith have designed slogan tote bags to raise awareness of violence against women, sparked by the story of 33-year-old Sarah Everard who was found dead after walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham.
Chelsea, who runs small business DarlingInks, wanted to create these bags to raise funds for the Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (Parcs), which helped her to process her own experiences.
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The 29-year-old, who was supported by the service for two years, said: ‘In 2014 I was raped. It was just the most horrific thing that had ever happened to me.
‘It took me a really long time to come to terms with it, I almost convinced myself that it didn’t happen.’
After two years, Chelsea decided she needed to speak to someone about her experience, and referred herself to PARCS for counselling.
The mum-of-two said: ‘Something in my head snapped and I decided I needed to get help.
‘I really worked on myself and I realised that it wasn’t my fault, I had held such a lot of guilt for such a long time.
‘It was a really hard experience to go through as a personal journey but to have shared that with PARCS was brilliant.
‘It’s a charity that’s not really heard of, I want to shout their name from the rooftops. They helped me so much, I can’t praise them enough.’
Around 20 of the slogan bags have already been sold, with 100 per cent of the profits being donated to PARCS.
Each tote bag costs £8 and will feature a design of your choice, including phrases such as ‘no means no’ and ‘she was just walking home’, words which featured heavily online after Sarah Everard’s body was found.
Small business owner Chelsea said: ‘When the Sarah Everard story came out it really hit home for me.
‘It was quite a strong feeling about how many times we have gone out on a night out and been too scared to walk home and get a taxi instead.
‘I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like that. It’s honestly mindblowing the amount of women who have been through similar things.
‘I wanted to do something that I feel passionate about and that is empowering women. These tote bags are a silent protest and it will never go away.’
Chelsea met London-based artist Pip through Instagram, and the pair teamed up to design and create the bags, which Chelsea prints at home.
Pip, who is on Instagram as @TheTraumaArtist, said: ‘I wanted to get involved with creating these bags so women could walk around wearing the bags as walking placards.
‘In 2021, a normal protest isn't possible, however the message still needs to be shared and we thought this would be a creative way to get around this.
‘Myself, my friends and so many other women have been harassed and abused with too many personal experiences. We need to change our culture and until that happens we need to keep spreading the message.’
To buy a tote bag, find @DarlingInks on Instagram and send a direct message.
Visit parcs.org.uk for more information or if you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article.
Alternatively, email [email protected] or phone (023) 9266 9513 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.