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The incredible lady helping victims of sexual assault in Manchester for over 25 years

For the past two decades, Anne has dedicated herself to the noble cause of Greater Manchester Rape Crisis (GMRC), crafting a lasting legacy in the hearts of those she's reached.

Anne Stebbings has been an unwavering force for change, dedicating two decades of her life to the Greater Manchester Rape Crisis Charity (GMRC).

Greater Manchester Rape Crisis began over thirty years ago as a feminist collective responding to the needs of women who shared their experiences of sexual violence.

With compassion, commitment, and an unshakeable belief in the cause, Anne’s journey at GMRC serves as an inspiring testament to the difference one individual can make in the lives of survivors of sexual violence.

Recently, Vignettes, a moving show at CONTACT Theatre documented a day in the life of the charity across six protagonists, with some of the scenes featuring a representation of Anne and her work.

This moving production brilliantly honoured the 45-year journey of GMRC.

Greater Manchester Rape Crisis

We spoke with Anne to talk about the incredible legacy she leaves behind at the charity and the issues they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

In a world where stories of courage, resilience, and compassion often go untold, Anne Stebbings stands as a beacon of unwavering dedication and empathy.

For the past two decades, she has been at the forefront of the battle against sexual violence as a vital member of the Greater Manchester Rape Crisis (GMRC) team.

Anne has significantly contributed to the transformation of countless lives, while GMRC itself continues its noble mission to provide solace and support to survivors of sexual abuse.

In this feature, we delve into the remarkable journey of Anne and the incredible work of GMRC, exploring the challenges they face and the promising future that lies ahead.

A Lifetime of Compassion

For Anne Stebbings, the journey into the realm of crisis support began in her early career.

Fresh out of university, she found herself drawn to volunteering, a path that would eventually lead her to work at Women’s Aid, specifically in a women’s refuge located in South Manchester.

Anne has spent virtually her entire working life in the field of women’s services, focusing on aiding those who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The GMRC Calling

A pivotal moment in Anne’s journey unfolded when she transitioned to Greater Manchester Rape Crisis. After serving at Women’s Aid for over a decade, she moved to Stockport Women’s Centre as their volunteer coordinator.

It was during this time that the opportunity at GMRC presented itself. Anne recalled, “I applied for it, never actually thinking of getting it.

“And I did, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve not looked back since then!”

This turning point marked the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the cause of helping survivors of sexual violence.

GMRC: A Glimpse into the Workings of Empathy

Empowering Survivors

GMRC, in its two-decade-long existence, has etched a profound impact on the lives of countless survivors. The organization has shown that, though the scars may never fully fade, the journey toward healing can be navigated with support, care, and understanding.

Anne highlighted the significance of GMRC’s services, which extend from therapy and counselling to independent sexual violence advocacy.

These, as she puts it, are crucial pillars of support for survivors as they navigate the difficult terrain of recovery and, in some cases, the pursuit of justice through the criminal justice system.

Specialist Services and a Holistic Approach

One of the core strengths of GMRC lies in its adaptability and its understanding of the diverse needs of survivors.

Anne emphasised the importance of addressing these unique needs by operating specialist services for various groups, including students, South Asian women, and those who have experienced abuse within a religious setting.

As she explained, this reflects GMRC’s commitment to inclusivity and the recognition that survivors come from all walks of life, as all cases are so different and complex.

Challenges on the Path to Healing

Changing Public Perception

The journey to combat sexual violence is a challenging one. While Anne Stebbings has witnessed significant changes in attitudes towards domestic abuse over the years, sexual violence remains an ongoing struggle.

Public perception and awareness still need to evolve further, especially when it comes to myths surrounding rape and sexual abuse.

The Conviction Conundrum

One major challenge that GMRC faces is the daunting conviction rate for sexual violence cases.

Often, it is the survivor who is subjected to intense scrutiny, and forced to prove their credibility.

Anne highlighted the issue, saying, “It feels like the woman has to prove that she’s a credible witness.”

This places a tremendous burden on survivors, making them doubt whether reporting is even worth the emotional toll.

Underreporting and the Fear of Reporting

Anne Stebbings noted that sexual violence is vastly underreported as a crime. She emphasised, “I think fewer than 15 per cent of rapes actually get reported, so if you think the conviction rate is based on that 15%, it’s a dreadful situation.”

Many survivors opt not to report, instead choosing to focus on their recovery.

Anne explained that reporting can open up a Pandora’s box of consequences, especially when the perpetrator is someone known to the survivor, such as a family member.

The fear of exposing a loved one’s dark side, or facing a justice system that often drags its feet, leaves many survivors feeling trapped.

Empathy in Action: Anne Stebbings and GMRC’s Impact

Saving Lives

Anne Stebbings and the GMRC team have consistently made a significant difference in the lives of survivors.

Many survivors have expressed their gratitude, going so far as to say that GMRC has saved their lives.

Their resilience and newfound ability to carry on with their daily lives are a testament to the impact of GMRC’s support.

Supporting Dignity and Courage

One of the most rewarding aspects of Anne’s career has been working with the remarkable women who make up the GMRC team. This dedicated group of individuals exemplifies the power of empathy and solidarity.

The team provides unwavering support to survivors, ensuring that they can navigate the path to healing and justice.

The dignity and courage displayed by survivors in the face of their ordeals are both humbling and inspiring.

A Deeper Understanding

Commonality of Sexual Violence

Anne’s experience with GMRC has helped her realise the true extent of the problem. Sexual violence is far more common than society often acknowledges.

Sexual violence is far more common than society often acknowledges.

She emphasised, “There’s a kind of a myth, I think, in society that if you’ve been raped or sexually abused, that you’re kind of this damaged individual.”

Anne has come to understand that most survivors, despite the trauma, are remarkably resilient.

This insight underscores the importance of empathy and support for those who have experienced sexual violence

Anne Stebbings’ Legacy

A Voice for Survivors

Anne Stebbings wishes to be remembered as a supportive, approachable figure who always had time for her team. Her legacy is marked by her unwavering commitment to prioritizing the needs of survivors. Her central role in running GMRC reflects a career built on advocacy, support, and a commitment to creating a safe haven for survivors of sexual violence.

The Future of GMRC

A Call for Proper Funding

As Anne Stebbings approaches a well-deserved retirement, she leaves behind a poignant call to action. She believes that sexual violence support centres, like GMRC, should be properly funded.

The struggle to secure funding year after year detracts from the primary mission of providing support and care to survivors.

Proper funding is an essential step toward creating a more empathetic and supportive society.

The work of Anne Stebbings and the Greater Manchester Rape Crisis is a testament to the power of empathy, resilience, and unwavering dedication.

In a world where the pain of survivors often goes unnoticed, Anne and her team at GMRC stand as beacons of hope, vibrant with a community spirit that seeks to heal and uplift. Their legacy is a testament to the capacity for empathy to create real and lasting change.

Through Anne’s journey, we’ve glimpsed the transformation of lives, the challenges faced by survivors, and the ongoing struggle to change societal perceptions. Yet, it is also a story of hope and promise—a future where GMRC is properly funded and where survivors can find the support they need.

In the end, Anne Stebbings’s legacy is a reminder of the enduring power of compassion, and Greater Manchester Rape Crisis remains an exemplar of empathy in action. Their story is a tribute to the unsung heroines who work tirelessly to make the world a better place, one survivor at a time.

I’m sure you’ll all join us in wishing Anne luck in her next adventure!

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