Jill Saward: Fund to keep up Shropshire rape campaigner's work tops £20,000 one year after her death
More than £20,500 has been donated towards setting up a trust carrying on the legacy and work of Shropshire rape campaigner Jill Saward as the first anniversary of her death passes.
Husband Gavin Drake has revealed that he hopes a charity will now be launched this year in his wife’s name.
Ms Saward, aged 51, who used to live in Telford, became a victims’ rights campaigner after being raped at her father’s Ealing vicarage in 1986. She was the first rape victim to waive her anonymity.
The mother-of-three died a year ago in Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital following a stroke.
In an emotional New Year’s Eve blog, her husband has told of his ‘own personal annus horribilis’. He wrote that last New Year he said on social media ‘2017: If you thought 2016 was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.’ The blog added: “This was a sentence that haunted me all year: three days later, on 3 January, my wife Jill was rushed into hospital after collapsing.
“She had suffered a stroke – a subarachnoid haemorrhage. She died two days later without regaining consciousness. The remainder of 2017 has been awful. My own personal annus horribilis. I can’t wait to see the back of it.
“Don’t get me wrong: there were some good points to the year: and without fail, they all had one thing in common: the love, the care, and the compassion shown to me by members of my family, my friends, and even strangers – and especially strangers who became friends.” He talked about how he and his wife had lived in many places during their marriage including Telford, Walsall, Stafford and Liverpool but had decided to put off any further moves until their youngest son had left secondary school, although they had discussed where they would like to go.
But, he said: “Now, the idea of moving no longer appeals,” added Mr Drake. “It isn’t just because here is where I have so many memories; it is also because planning for the future now meant planning for a future without Jilly, I know that my future is without her.
“But facing that, and planning for it, are two different things. I can face up to the first; I struggled with the second.” Jill’s sister and niece have moved in to the house in Hednesford, which he described as ‘an absolute life-saver’. “Jilly was such a big part of me that when she died, so much of me did too. I had no reason to live. I had no reason to be.”
Helping look after his niece had given him something to do, he said. “Getting breakfast ready, doing the school runs, and organising supper are small things: but things that meant I had to get up. I had to be responsible. I had something to do.”
Gavin described how hard Christmas had been, her favourite time of year, ahead of the anniversary of her death on January 5 and what would have been her birthday on January 15.
“The reality is that the fear of these big “events” has been far more debilitating than the events themselves. Possibly because the fear is that strong that whatever happened on the day couldn’t be as bad as the fearsome predictions had been. And the reality was that I was never alone during them: no matter how much I often felt alone throughout the year.”
He continued: “This year, I have been defined by losing Jill. It has more than changed me. The loss was me. But now, as we approach 2018, I can once more look ahead.”
Journalist Mr Drake, who is also the Walsall FC match day announcer, continued: “It is difficult, still, to plan for the future. But now, at least, I know I have a future. This month I started a new job.
“It is actually work that I have been doing on-and-off since 2011. But now I am doing it as a full-time employee rather than a self-employed contractor. Being freelance has its advantages. But it also has disadvantages. One of those is that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. And there have been entire months this year when I did no work at all – just one regular column. I couldn’t face doing anything more.
“But I’m looking to the future with a positive mind. I’m not predicting that 2018 will be an annus mirabilis; but – let’s face it – it can’t be a worse year than this year.”Almost 600 people have donated to the JustGiving fund aiming to raise enough money for a trust in the name of Jill and to carry on her work as a fierce campaigner for justice and for specialist support services for rape survivors.
Robbers broke into her home at a vicarage in Ealing, London, in 1986, and raped her and seriously assaulted her father, Rev Michael Saward, as well as her boyfriend at the time. The attackers received a lenient sentence and her campaigning led to direct changes in the law.
Mr Drake said in a radio interview that it was ‘fantastic’ that so much money had been donated and the charity would continue Ms Saward’s work campaigning and speaking out on behalf of victims of sexual violence.
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