Organisations and individuals discuss the Speaking Out exhibition and it’s significant contribution to enabling the healing process in survivors.
Free-VA – Free from Violence and Abuse, Leicester
No one knows precisely how many women, men and children experience domestic violence, sexual assault and rape. What we do know is that we can all be affected by physical, sexual, psychological, social or economic abuse or neglect, regardless of any demographic characteristic. Research shows that domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. At least one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime and at least one in ten women endure it over the longer term. In this latter group, their own children are frequently subject to having to witness this violence whilst being in the same room (Hughes, 1992). Every sixty seconds the police receive a phone call regarding domestic violence, and two women a week are murdered by their ex-partner or current partner in the UK. Clearly, the human cost to society is huge.
It is very important for survivors to realise that they are not alone. The first step is recognising that they are experiencing violence and abuse, and accessing practical support and information is essential. Victim-support organisations provide a range of services from emotional support and Information on some of the options available to support with reporting to the police and help with attending court.Being able to talk about what has happened helps break the isolation of survivors and restore their self-confidence. And above all, recognise that they are believed.
Initiatives such as Speaking Out are central to this process and are long overdue. This pioneering event will serve to bring out the voices of survivors into the public domain. This is a significant achievement in itself. It also creates synergies of expertise and creativity to bring together victims/survivors with artists, support professionals and the community to develop transformative strategies for dealing with the trauma of abuse.
Free-VA is a registered charity based in Leicester, working towards reducing domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. It provides specialist support and information to anyone affected by these forms of violence and work closely with other agencies to ensure the right support is in place for victims/survivors, perpetrators and professionals.
Dr Sophie Parkinson
General Practitioner, Leicester
As a GP, I am very much aware of the effects of violence against women both on those women directly affected but also on the rest of society. Doctors in all aspects of medical practice frequently encounter victims of violence, although it can be difficult to recognise the signs as women (and especially children) are reluctant to speak for fear they might not be believed, or of further violence. We aim to try and heal the physical, emotional and psychological damage experienced by women of all ages and all backgrounds. But we always feel that much more should be done. It is not my job to solve the causes of violence, but I wish I could do more for these women.
Having the chance to speak out about the experience and to be heard to speak out is a very important part of the healing process. This making sense of their own experience of violence in their own way through artistic expression is at the heart of the ‘Speaking Out’ Exhibition at Embrace Arts. I consider this to be a significant contribution to enabling the healing process in survivors and sincerely hope that it aims will be conveyed beyond Leicester.
Anuja Punj Prashar
Chair British United Indian Liberal Democrats (BUILD)
Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate, London Region
A comparison of the western and eastern gaze upon women
There is a glaring difference between the gaze of the west upon women and the gaze of the east upon women. I do not refer to the manner in which the east or west “look at” the superficial appearance of a woman – but rather the gaze refers to a manner in which the role of ‘function of a woman’ in society, and the status of women in that society and culture; and the economic opportunity of a woman in society is determined by the perception of what it means to be a woman. Thus, the gaze or lens by which ‘the woman’ is perceived is constructed through 3 mechanisms namely those of role, status & economic opportunity.
I am therefore delighted to support Speaking Out. This vital initiative will give voice to women and survivors from all backgrounds and help challenge the taboo of focusing on other cultures, especially for those where women are denied a voice in the public domain.
Lady Justice Sureta Chana
Victims Representative, Kenya Case 1 at International Criminal Court
Expert for the PSVI (Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative), UK
However the International Criminal Court chooses to implement its policy on victim participation, victims have a crucial role to play in the administration of justice. Victims’ participation is meaningful from the start of the trial and they have to be allowed to put their concerns directly to judges. In the end, it is the victims who were injured, and who lost property and loved ones. During the ICC Kenya trials the 126 victims I represented in the Ruto, Kosgey and Sang case reported that widespread rape occurred during the post-election violence and said that the prosecutor’s case was lacking in both evidence and scope, although the three suspects were not charged with rape. The victims were also concerned that the prosecutor’s investigations had let Prime Minister Raila Odinga off the hook. Rape is one of the most difficult crimes to prove at the ICC as the stigma surrounding sexual violence makes it difficult to gather testimonies. But it is not impossible to investigate rape and collect the evidence to prosecute people. This is why victim accounts are necessary to help judges to understand the full scale of the post-election violence.
For the victims, the expectations of a trial go beyond any convictions that are handed down or compensation that might be awarded. Survivors want an apology. They are looking for justice and accountability and the recognition that the violence occurred. That they have been deeply, deeply wounded in all sorts of manner and in particular to their moral well-being. They want to be seen as human beings.
Life Story Writing
In 2008 I became Co-ordinator for www.infertrust.org, a registered charity raising awareness of the issues gun misuse and offering support advice and networking opportunities to those affected. This work involves supporting victims and families affected by all gun violence, including armed domestic violence.
In 2011 I launched www.lifestorywriting.co.uk encouraging and supporting people to write about their life experiences in classes, day courses and residential colleges. Revisiting memories, and writing about the past, as part of a safe, supported group is a positive occupation and no experience of writing is needed. Academic research has shown that writing expressively about the past brings real therapeutic benefits to the general health and well-being of participants. Writing, and ‘Speaking Out’ about domestic violence can be an important part of the healing process and it is a crucial part of raising awareness of the issues.
I recently joined the creative team at www.andthedoctorsaid.org a research project funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council, a joint venture between Keele University and the University of Staffordshire. Residents of North Staffordshire were encouraged to respond creatively, (including writing creatively), about their experience of illness and health care in the area. A permanent exhibition of responses will be on display in various locations and it is hoped the work will help inform medical practitioners and health policy makers, and contribute to future improvements in health and well-being in North Staffordshire. Whilst there were some difficult experiences of illness and health care, there were others inspired by positive experiences, recovery and gratitude. Watch the film to see and hear more about the workshops.
I wholeheartedly support ‘Speaking Out’ and thank everyone involved for enabling this superb collection of powerful and expressive pieces to be exhibited in Leicester. I continue to work with colleagues, victims and families to bring an end to the scourge of domestic violence, to raise awareness of the issues, and to support those affected.