During her opening keynote speech, actress and activist Amber Heard said, “Inequality is deeply unjust and yet common, normalised, tolerated and invisible. At its heart lays a subtle system of deeply seated beliefs that in one way or another are held and upheld by many... Some gender stereotypes may seem innocuous, they may even hold some truth. But the problem with gender stereotypes isn’t that they are untrue, it’s that they are incomplete.”
Heard went on to pay tribute to her close friend, Amanda Nguyen, who secured the passage of the landmark Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act in the US, and is working with the UN to accomplish the same goal on an international scale. “By overhauling how assaults are reported and extending the timeline for preserving rape kits, she has made it easier for survivors to come forward and obtain justice.” says Heard.
Heard ended by saying, “You, like me, see yourself not as a victim, but rather as a growing army of women, daughters of a generation of equality. We have inherited far too much to be resigned to accept injustice and together we are much too strong to excuse it any longer.”
A panel discussion followed on how the UK justice system is failing victims of gender-based violence. The panel was chaired by Marie Claire’s Editor in Chief, Trish Halpin, and panellists included author and qualified barrister, Jennifer Nadel; Head of European Operations at Justice and Care, Cristina Gavrilovic; barrister Sheryl Nwosu and campaigner Sammy Woodhouse.
When asked about victims, Sammy said: “People need to treat victims like victims. I recently saw a headline - 11-year-old girl slept with 100 men – no, an 11-year-old girl was raped by 100 men... that’s victim blaming.”
Following this, Jennifer said: “Many women who have been through the trial process will say they were the ones who were being scrutinised in the dock, not the rapist.” Cristina comments: “It’s about changing the mentality and that the next generation won’t think ‘I’ve been raped but I can’t tell anyone.”
Sheryl said: “Discussions like this empower women, empower young women to find their voice and strength so whether they find themselves in a compromising position professionally or personally, they are empowered enough to speak up for themselves or find a woman to speak up for them.”