Approximately 85,000 women are raped each year in England and Wales. So, what do you make of that? If it makes you want to stop reading, don’t, because not enough is heard about rape from the survivor’s perspective.
Rape doesn’t discriminate on grounds of class, education or ethnicity, despite what some people may think. It can happen to any woman. It happened to yours truly and it happened to my Page 1 Woman™. It threw her into a cycle of self-destructive behaviour, typical of those who’ve experienced such violence, which counselling and group therapy did little to address. ‘Eventually I managed to see a psychiatrist, and I stopped having panic attacks. But it didn't help me figure out who I was, what I was doing, and how to live more than one day at a time’. These factors came later through her own search for healing.
Meet Emily Jacob, award winning CEO of ‘ReConnected Life’, blogger for the Metro, Huffington Post and Psychologies magazine, and bold rape survivor. I first spotted Emily at Joanna Martin’s ‘One Woman’ conference, on the stage sharing her story as an award nominee. The audience was hooked by her openness, honesty and immense courage.
The aims of ‘ReConnected Life’ are two-fold: to enable rape survivors to reconnect with themselves and to change the paradigm about rape. Now, you’d be forgiven for seeing this as a gargantuan undertaking. Well, it is. But don’t under-estimate Emily. She’s a determined woman and has gained an incredible amount of publicity in just 6 months. The narrative here is of a woman spurred on by the trauma of double injustice – the rape itself, and CPS’ refusal to prosecute - and by a promise to make a difference in the world. The irony is that she discovered where she should make that difference through this appalling occurrence.
‘Trying to do something that helps survivors live a better life, whilst changing the way that society supports them and treats rape, is what keeps me going’, said Emily.
Read on and learn about Emily’s journey to recovery and how this has informed the unique programme she offers to survivors of rape.
Describe your work?
Emily: I help women rape survivors who often feel broken, fragile and shameful. I help them to move beyond managing their fear and panic and living a day at a time, to living a reconnected life – hence the name of my business ‘ReConnected Life’.
Although I launched the brand ‘ReConnected Life’ in August 2016, I've actually been supporting survivors throughout my own 8 year recovery. It’s going phenomenally well. I have a Facebook community group of more than 100 women supporting each other. I've also been in media programmes such as Glamour online, and London Live TV and I’m a recognised blogger on a number of media platforms. And I’ve an online programme too.
What essential steps did you take to get to where you are now?
Emily: I never planned it. I was clinging to the idea that there was much more to life than just surviving rape every day. So I tried to create a life I wanted by starting my marketing business which led to my training to be a coach. As this made me feel more like myself eventually, I realized that although I'd worked out how my brain needed to function in this new world, my body still felt disconnected. And I recognised that feeling connected would make me feel alive again so I worked on that. And then I thought, ‘Now, I’ve recovered, I'll carry on with my marketing business’. But eventually, it became obvious that what I needed was to help other people to recover too.
I attended lots of workshops on identifying my unique contribution to the world. For a while, I tried to prevent rape from being the focus of my everyday life, and so I consciously resisted making it my business. But when I talked to survivors about whether coaching would help them I realized that there was a gap to fill. So the essential step I took involved getting out of my own way, by creating a vision that was much bigger than me, to which I was irrelevant, and finding a unique way to recover that I intend to share with as many rape survivors as possible.
What was the most significant thing that you did that got you to where you are currently?
Emily: When I was about 5 or 6, I made a promise to my granny, that I would make a difference in the world. So, I’m determined to do it.
My granny was such an inspiration to me. I remember her stories about her large family walking homeless around the east end of London, where she was born. Despite coming from nothing, she defied societal norms in getting divorced, being a single mom, getting re-married to my Jewish immigrant grandad and becoming Lady Rose Jacob. Her example made me believe that I should be able to do and be more and continue her legacy.
What was the greatest challenge on your journey?
Emily: My lack of self- belief. I just have this constant background track that says I'm not good enough, so I’ve no right to be helping others.
I tackle it by focusing on that big vision. Because regardless of how I feel about myself, I've evidence that what I do works. So I keep coming back to that bigger vision rather than focusing on my fears, and worries. And one of my values is to be fearless. So I've overcome PTSD; walked on hot coals, on broken glass and into arrows - self-empowering and fearless stuff. Some days I'm full of self-doubt. So I need to be fearless every day, and do the best I can.
What was your greatest light bulb moment?
Emily: At Joanna Martin’s ‘Lead the Change’ programme, at the Be Vital Retreat, something clicked that I wasn't in my body and didn’t feel connected with it. I ended up on the floor sobbing. I learned that feeling connected with my body was the missing piece.
There are three different steps to recovery from rape, but people focus mostly on the first step of managing the symptoms.
Another step is dealing with our changed view of the world, and rediscovering who we are and who we want to be. What is hardly ever addressed is step 3, reconnecting with our bodies. Some people do it through yoga, but if you're already detached, it's hard to recognize that you've become even more so because of the rape experience.
I found no-one saying, "These are the 3 steps to recovery, and I can help you." So realizing that I knew all the ingredients to recovery was very significant.
What key resource has been crucial to your success?
Emily: Self-care, listening to my body, honoring and being kind to it, is absolutely critical to reconnecting with it. It's like juggling many balls - starting a new business, helping survivors, trying to change the world etc. The one glass ball that I can’t afford to drop is self-care. So every day I have to take notice of myself, and be kind, and compassionate to myself, whereas I wasn’t in the past. Whilst in recovery I over- drank and tried to numb things. So now self-care is about opening up to emotions, and expressing them.
Self-care builds my self-belief and helps me to feel loved. It helps to maintain my energy to do what I have to do. It’s the beginning of everything.
How much do you see yourself as a leader?
Emily: I don't. I have an ambition to be a leader, to shift society’s mindset and the paradigm on rape and rape survivors. I want to be a pioneer and bring transformational change, which are about leading. When I'm stepping up in my group, and supporting members, I'm role modeling what they can do. So I guess I’m behaving like a leader.
I feel that claiming the label of leader is egocentric, a bit like saying ‘I’m inspirational.’ Only other people can give me that label. But, I guess the more people say I’m a leader, the more I'll feel it. Right now it doesn't feel like something I can legitimately claim.
What do you understand by leadership?
Emily: Leadership is about role modeling a set of behaviors that other people will follow. A leader has a vision, and a place that they want people to follow them to. The kind of leader I admire and want to be, is someone who's authentic. A leader needs to be honest about their flaws. I wouldn’t trust them otherwise. This is what I’m trying to model to others. And yes, I guess I’m a self-leader too. But there are days when I don't live up to it. But I guess that makes me human.
What difference has it made being a woman leader?
Emily: It's easier for women to be the kind of leader I admire, than it is for men. Men are more likely to feel the pressure to conform to leadership which is more about the cult of personality and dictatorial. Whereas because women don't have so many leader archetypes, we either choose to lead like men, or take a more compassionate, open, authentic approach.
In the corporate world, women often choose a male archetype, because that's what gets noticed. Being a solopreneur, I don't have to respond to anyone else's view of leaders. I'm just being me without putting a leader label on it. So, how my leadership style manifests is more natural, than if I were senior in the corporate world. My business demands that I operate with compassion and collaboratively. A masculine leadership style won’t work.
There aren't enough women leaders so we lack sufficient role-models. So it's really important that women leaders recognize themselves as role models and highlight the fact that they are there.
What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?
Emily: Be authentic, and open. They are strengths. You’ll stand out and inspire people to follow you. You can't lead others unless people want to follow.
Second, don’t be afraid of being compassionate. Too many leaders lack compassion and are purely results rather than people focused. So, don't be afraid; be naturally compassionate. It’ll make you a better leader, and you'll be doing more for the world.
Third, focus on your mission and vision. They’ll help you get through the tough times when you're focusing on something bigger than you.
Find out more about ReConnected Life here.
Were you moved by Emily's story? If so, go ahead and share it with the women in your network and help to get them inspired. Who knows, you may even be enabling someone to seek help and support.
And share it on social media too. The wider the circulation, the better.