Rachel Chapple, PhD (Founder, Real Stories Gallery Foundation)


Dr Rachel Chapple is a Social Anthropologist and Founder of Real Stories Gallery.

Young Male Survivors of Sexualized Violence (Sexual Abuse & Sexual Exploitation) urgently need places that are, in truth, safe to run to and grow up in. They need programs that provide them with access to knowledge and support systems. 

Few people are prepared to welcome into their lives young males with histories of sexualized violence, neglect and HIV/AIDS-defining infections and diseases. Few safe houses have been built. Few safe programs have been created. Even fewer of these are survivor-led and peer-mentored. This is particularly significant given that cultural & religious perceptions and behaviours often make it difficult for young male survivors to disclose their stories for fear of being judged or pitied, or criminalized. Safe homes for young male survivors built on concepts of "rehabilitation" that seek to insert boys into the very middle-class trajectories that failed them so spectacularly in the first place, are ideologies & buildings that the boys will run from. And they have a lot to run from.

The boys need access to best practice medical care and strategies that make it easier for young male survivors to cope with the physical and psychological side effects of the powerful prescription drugs, which they will have to adhere to for their rest of his life (ie there is no cure for HIV). Issues of access and adherence to healthcare & rigorous medical regimes are made easier for young male survivors when they have a safer and more stable place to live.

Securing a safe address also permits young male survivors to have better access to first class pro bono legal counsel and representation, which serves their best interests. They may be entitled to assistance after being sexually exploited or sex trafficked. Without the correct legal assistance it is difficult for a traumatized and often culturally shamed young male to navigate the complex legislation & court procedures. 

Poverty competes with anything and everything that anyone may happen to say to young male survivors of sexual violence. Stigma, even stigma by association, compounds the reality that they are failed by adults: Heterosexual communities turn away from the boys. Homosexual communities run away from the boys.

The unnecessary suffering inflicted on young male survivors of sexual violence AFTER everything that has been done to them and that they have been forced to do to survive, can be alleviated in our lifetime if enough individuals choose to get involved: to shift cultural perceptions and learned behaviours, and to end the lack of funding for early intervention programs. When no one wants to pay, or believes that someone else should pay, very few programs strengthen and expand. Countless studies reveal that childhood trauma that goes unreported or treated leads to the long-term health of survivors being compromised. 

Today human ingenuity and technologies have expanded our sense of community. We can reach out and touch each other's lives faster than at any other time in our collective histories. As individuals our health and well-being is dependent on the health and well-being of the communities surrounding our lives. It is not healthy for our communities to tolerate the sexual abuse and exploitation of boys. It is not healthy for our communities to pretend that boys with histories of  sexual abuse and exploitation have access to safe places to live, to consistent and appropriate medical care or to legal representation that serves their best interests.

I urge everyone to get involved with ending the destructive and erroneous myth that young male survivors of sexual abuse & exploitation are treated humanely within wealthy nations. 

Rachel completed her PhD & BA (First Class) in Social Anthropology at S.O.A.S (School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London). Her thesis '"It's rude to interrupt when someone is speaking..." explored the imagery, stories and language employed by contemporary artists from eleven African countries. Her research focused on the creational context (the period in which artists create their work) and the exhibition of their images and ideas: how the artists and their work was received by a wide audience within the context of Africa 95's National Museums, Galleries and University Forums in the UK (Pamoja International Sculpture Workshop at the Henry Moore Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and in London at Gasworks Artists Studio / Residency program).  Rachel was sponsored by The British Council for her follow up research in Botswana among the Thapong International Artists' Workshop artists. Prior to this Rachel worked for several years as a senior designer & project coordinator for Steve Simons (co-founder & Creative Director, Event Communications Ltd www.eventcom.com).  Whilst attending The London College of Furniture, Rachel received a National Design Bursary Award. Rachel grew up with the Gurkha Regiments (British Army) and has lived and worked in South Asia, East Asia, Southern Africa, the USA and Europe. She currently lives in New York.

Rachel co-founded the online HIV awareness and prevention art and storytelling initiative www.real-stories-gallery.org in 2009, and the Real Stories Gallery Foundation 501(c)(3) in 2010. The Real Stories collaborative initiatives include: SHOW ME YOUR LIFE (2010), TRISTAN'S MOON (2011-14), SMASH STREET BOYS FESTIVAL (2012), DEJA VU (2014), Just Before The Cure; THE STORY OF A SAFE HOUSE (2015).

"She Dreams Of Islands"

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