During the '16 Days of Activism' campaign 2023 we have shared the things we are investing our time, energy and resources into to combat CSA as a form of gender-based violence. Our work is a creative campaign to nurture voice, visibility, community and leadership by, with and for CSA survivors, so we can lead social change. Find out more below:
Our work seeks to disrupt the cycle by supporting the CSA survivor community to find the words to talk about our experiences, by providing avenues for CSA survivors' voices to be heard and harnessing our voices to social change.
The creative approach enables us to collectively express the nuances, complexity and contradictions of intersectional CSA survivor experiences. We need these spaces to listen to our own voices, to hear each other, to uncover our shared and diverse narratives. And we need platforms to challenge our oppression and speak truth to power.
Our projects provide spaces for survivors to safely explore and articulate our journeys as well as find ways into activism and campaigning so we can represent our needs, interests and concerns.
We recognise that it is not safe or preferred for everyone to speak out publicly so we do lots of creative co-produced work that enables people to contribute their voices anonymously. For others, now is the right time to share their voices publicly or in specific settings and we provide platforms, spaces and guidance for this to happen in safe and supported ways.
One thing is undeniable - collectively our voices are getting louder - we are proud to be part of a growing ecology of CSA survivor leaders, artists, activists and organisations - as a community we will not accept the silence any more. We are breaking that cycle. Our voices will be heard.
We lack a sense of community identity. Most CSA survivors have never knowingly met another CSA survivor. Many of us have not disclosed to anyone, even closest friends and family, let alone colleagues and wider social circles. The dominant culture treats our experiences as taboo, something to be discussed in hushed voices in private (if at all) which perpetuates our identity as “other.” When shame prevents us from self-identifying it is impossible to find our way into community. Our work champions a culture of unshaming and recognises this needs a thoughtful, care-filled approach so we work towards visibility in a range of ways.
We offer positive role models that contradict conventional perceptions of CSA survivors and offer new strengths-based narratives. We believe “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Visible CSA survivor leaders, artists and activists offer role models which emphasise alternatives to victim blaming stereotypes that keep us silent and separate and prevent collective action.
We want current and future generations of CSA survivors to see empowered CSA survivors authentically navigating the complexity of the survivor experience and working together for social justice in safe, equitable and connected ways. This includes leaders who choose to or need to be visible in chosen spaces and not in others, artists whose creative work is visible but they as an individual are not and activists who use pseudonyms and organisational names to carry out their work. We celebrate the many ways that survivors say “I am here”.
We centre individual safety, consent and choice. Our work is about building VISIBLE COMMUNITY that does not rely on individual visibility as this is not the safe, possible or preferred option for everyone. We affirm that being visible is not better than being safe and comfortable.
Our work seeks to reduce isolation by developing the infrastructure for community connection and building cohesive communities of belonging. We do this by working to understand the common marginalisations we face in the dominant culture. We are experimenting with accessible and inclusive cultures and experiences. A central question drives our practice - what do we need to feel safer and more included in creative workshop, training or cultural spaces? What does a CSA survivor centred space look and feel like?
All marginalised communities have places where they gather, feel ownership and freedom from the micro aggressions and oppressions they face in the wider culture, places like pubs, clubs, community centres… We don’t have these yet. Our pop-up cultural spaces explore what it is like to be together as a connected community. We recognise that gathering in person is not everyone’s preference and there are barriers to doing so including geography, finances, transport, confidence and safety, so we also work to build community online through remote participation in workshops and events.
What is undeniable is that communities make change. Throughout history all civil rights movements and all social change has happened when marginalised, oppressed communities come together to represent their own interests, rights and concerns. Our work visions a huge connected CSA community mobilised for social change. We vision critical mass and survivor-led narrative, cultural and systems change. Our ultimate aim is for the CSA survivor community to be a protected under the Equalities Act giving us statutory access across all sectors.
The answers to that question are complex. Many of us have had our education and careers disrupted through the social, physical and mental health impacts of trauma. For lots of us just getting out of bed in the morning is victorious. The impact of stigma and medical model perceptions of survivors mean that negative stereotypes about us persist - we are seen as deficient, less capable, more vulnerable, less professional, too emotional, unreliable, oversensitive and disruptive. Many of us have internalised these beliefs and have low confidence and aspiration.
Our strengths-based model that emphasises the positive qualities inherent in survivors - we are creative, resilient, resourceful, observant, emotionally attuned human beings - we’ve had to be these things otherwise we would not have survived. What if the issue is not us, but a lack of access. What if we can harness these qualities to make change. We work within a social model of disability which seeks to understand and remove barriers CSA survivors face in progressing into leadership - some of which are practical and lots of which are changing working cultures and attitudes.
We create pathways for CSA survivors into cultural leadership through training, mentoring and creating opportunities with specialist access support so that together we can lead change. There are so many different ways of leading - as artists, facilitators, activists, organisers, fundraisers, comms people, wellbeing support. Our 11 million strong community needs more leaders - there’s a lot of work to do and it’s gonna take all of us.
welcome to my blog
I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.