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


Rachel is a Social Anthropologist and co-Founder of Real Stories Gallery.

I thank our visitors for joining us, as we move together in a direction that will raise the quality of life for male survivors of heinous crimes.

Having spent my entire career in the art & design, museum & academic, and nonprofit arenas, I am aware that there are distinctions in what might be called 'palatability' or accessibility of nonprofit causes. Some issues are 'easy' in the sense that everyone with a heart or conscience is drawn to them. Other issues are much trickier to put in front of the public. Anything to do with sex trafficking and hard-to-reach at-risk kids, HIV/AIDS & poverty, is fraught with discomfort for many. And the issues dealt with by all sharing their voices at Real Stories Gallery are the most fraught of all. I am deeply indebted to each individual who has shared his/her generosity and friendship with Real Stories, has ventured where others don't dare and to all the gifted individuals who have persevered with little support for their leadership and humanitarian work.

"Survivors are worth investing in because they are intelligent, knowledgeable and alive. Plus, they always give back in creative and innovative ways, and without being asked."

Funding early intervention safe house programs, stengthening and scaling up responses that have been developed by survivor-advocates, peer-mentors and experienced caregivers, requires consistent and long-term investment.  Securing a safe place to live, an address, permits a young male survivor of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, meaningful access to pro bono legal counsel and representation, which in turn allows him to navigate legal mechanisms, protections and services that truly do serve his best interests.

Young male survivors are highly skilled at reading non-verbal cues and language; at knowing what adults really mean when they do or say something. Few adults are prepared to welcome into their lives young males with histories of sexual violence, chronic neglect, infections and diseases. Surivors are wary of safe house programs that are built on and embrace the concept of "rehabilitation" and seek to insert young male survivors into the very middle-class trajectories that failed them so spectacularly in the first place. These are ideas, practices & places that a young male survivor will run from... And, as survivor' stories reveal, they have a lot to run from. "The first thing a new resident will do is make a mental note of where all the exits and escape routes are..." 

Survivor-led and peer-mentored safehouse programs, signal to a young male survivor that it is safe for him to disclose what was done to him and what he had to do to survive. Disclosure leads to a reduction in self-harming behaviors, suicide ideation and raises adherence to rigorous physicological and physical medical regimes. "It is important that safe house programs are designed by experienced caregivers; adults who have experience working with young male survivors of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking. One sign of a program's success, is that survivors who reach adulthood often choose to return as young adults to assist, or keep in touch with their safehouse caregivers, guides or peers."

A young male survivor's quality of life is significantly raised when he has access to best practice medical care, and to strategies that make it easier for him to better cope with the physical and psychological side effects of powerful prescription drugs; he may be advised that he will have to adhere to a rigorous medical regime for the rest of his life (ie there is no cure for HIV). When young male survivors are accompanied to medical clinics by a survivor-advocate and peer-mentor, invasive examinations and tests become more tolerable; a survivor becomes more knowledgeable about his rights and learns to self-advocate (skills he will require as an adult negotiating long-term access and adhere to antiretroviral and prescription pain-relief, etc).

I urge everyone to get involved with ending the destructive and erroneous belief that young male survivors of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, are treated humanely within wealthy nations... Poverty competes with anything and everything that anyone may happen to say to male survivors.

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 where she raises her four children.

Rachel co-founded the online HIV awareness & prevention, art & 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); "Why Should We Talk About Men?" (conflict-related sexual violence against men) (2016-17).  

"She Dreams Of Islands"

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