In March we were proud to support this performance, which used music and drama to challenge misconceptions about sexual assault, by producing some flyers and promoting it on social media. We’re delighted that composer Chloe Knibbs, an activist we’re proud to be connected with, has written this blog for us reflecting on the performance, its impact and the power of art in challenging myths and raising awareness about sexual abuse. You can hear Chloe talk more about her work on 27th April, details below.
By Chloe Knibbs:
Just over a month ago, I had a performance of my work – “The Girl Behind the Glass” – a piece that used music and drama to explore sexual assault recovery (for more details, please see: http://thecuspmagazine.com/reviews/girl-behind-glass-review/ ).
The piece was made up of singing, cello music, drama and recordings of my own song material and was performed with great empathy, care and attention by all the performers (Suzie Purkis, Abigail Kelly and Megan Kirwin).
In everyday life, most people are exposed to issues of sexual assault in the 5 minutes it is featured on the news. And yet for this performance, people were staying with these issues for an hour. Naturally, I was terrified – would people just switch off? Would they be disgusted by it? Could they find beauty in the process of sexual assault recovery?
Moreover, sexual assault is often viewed as a one-off alien happening. Often most people would like to pretend these things do not happen. Or point to the ways those who have experienced sexual violence should have handled the situation differently – “Did you actually say no?”. Moreover, depictions in the media often make it seem that those who have experienced such trauma will be permanently broken and forever vulnerable – “Her life will never be the same again”. And so often there is misunderstanding around the process of recovery – “But it happened a year ago, don’t you think you need to move on now?”.
This was why focusing on recovery became integral to the work. I was keen to demonstrate the non-linear – and sadly often traumatic in itself – nature of recovery. Many survivors talk of feeling like that they have been split in two, that one part just remains with the trauma whilst the other part attempts to maintain ordinary everyday life (despite everything feeling anything other than normal). As a result, I decided to make the two singers represent parts of the same person, a visual indication of just how fractured someone may feel in the aftermath of this type of trauma. The piece followed the journey of these two parts of the same person at various points. There was the denial, the withdrawal, the anger, the self-hatred – how the media and responses from others can feed this – the trauma symptoms, and the coming together of these two parts with acceptance and self-compassion.
The performance finished with yellow flower petals falling down to the stage floor. It was a funeral of what had been lost. It was hope. It was pain. And accepting that pain. I sat quietly, wondering what the audience responses would be. Would they have been affected? Would they have been affected too much?
After the performance I gave out feedback forms to all the audience members, with just one question: “How did the piece affect you?” And after plucking up enough courage, it did take five days (!), I read them and was incredibly surprised by the reactions.
It turned out there were a number of survivors in the audience, and all had written of how they could connect with the performance and how helpful – also exhausting – that had been. I was massively touched by this, and I think it is the best feedback I could have ever received. The fact that these individuals came to the performance was incredibly brave, and I am so glad they felt they could share their stories with me.
And there was a second surprise. Many of the other feedback forms included sentiments such as “I will rethink how I respond to these issues in the future”. Or “I have an insight into the difficulties people face when trying to recover from sexual assault”. When writing the piece I had hoped it would open people’s eyes, or make them aware of the negative impact certain comments or responses can have. Nevertheless, I did not expect this level of feedback. As an artist, I am inevitably invested in the power of art – for myself, for others, for communities – but I had underestimated it this time. For people to be prepared to rethink and question the normalised responses to rape and sexual assault, gave me an insight into what changes could be made in the future. Perhaps one of the audience members will meet someone who is dealing with these issues, and they will be the voice of compassion that challenges the judgement and stigma. They will be a voice of hope, for the 85,000 women and the 12,000 men in the UK who experience sexual assault every year (https://rapecrisis.org.uk/statistics.php ).
Most importantly, this experience showed me that art can make human what has been dehumanised, stigmatised. That putting these issues in a context other than the news or social media, can give people the perspective to see things differently. To see that the rape and sexual assault is hideous, but that those who experience it are not. That life will be different, but these people are no less human or beautiful.
With thanks to Birmingham Conservatoire, mac birmingham, RSVP Birmingham for supporting the piece.
Also, for more information on this piece, Chloe Knibbs will be talking at Badego’s Short Talks Event on the 27th April: http://badego.org.uk/events/small-talks-april-2017/
We were delighted that on Tuesday 28th March Baroness Newlove, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, called in to our office while visiting Birmingham. She spent the time with two survivors, listening to their stories with great empathy. The Baroness also heard from Yvonne Langham, Head of ISVA Services, Lisa Monks, ISVA, Margaretta Vauls, Children and Young People’s ISVA, and Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive, about the services we provide and the challenges survivors face throughout police and court processes. If you’d like to learn more about Baroness Newlove’s role visit the Victims’ Commissioner’s website.
A big thank you to all involved with the Infinity Stage Company at University of Birmingham who are donating £986 to RSVP. These are the profits from their award-winning production of the Vagina Monologues, which included some rather special cupcakes. The show was named ‘Best Event’ by the University of Birmingham student’s guild – a well deserved award. Congratulations Infinity!
Infinity Stage Company are a charity student theatre group who have been raising money for RSVP this entire academic year and had already raised over £800 for us from their Christmas Ball, raffles, and other shows. Find put more about them and their upcoming shows at www.facebook.com/InfinityStageCompany
We are recruiting a part-time support worker to work 8 hours a week from our office in central Birmingham. The role will provide vital practical and crisis support to refugees and asylum seekers affected by sexual violence and abuse.
The deadline for applications is Sunday 23rd April 2017, 5pm. Please email applications to email@example.com
Please download and read all the below documents so you have all the information you need to make your application.
If you would like to discuss this vacancy further, please contact Anjella Darcy or Sarah Lafford on 0121 643 0301 / firstname.lastname@example.org
This post has been made possible with support from Henry Smith Charity.
Women and Sexism in the Rock and Metal Industry event is a joint collaboration between the University of Birmingham Rock Society and Women’s Association in light of National Women’s History month. We will be looking at how women are presented in the rock and metal music industry, in terms of female fronted bands or lack of, women behind the scenes and also sexual harassment at gigs.
The event will be a series of short talks and presentations from a number of guest speakers, such as music academics Dr Asya Draganova and Jasmine Shadrack, members of progressive groove metal band Aramantus, current student and writer Rosie Solomon, the Not On Campaign and the organiser and President of the Rock Society, Anna Pitts.
There hasn’t been an event of this kind done before by the Rock Society and as the first female president of the society in a long time I felt responsible to raise awareness of these issues that affect women in the industry. I came up with the idea for this event as I’m very passionate about the topic of women and sexism within the rock and metal genre and I feel that these issues are rarely discussed. Also, I had spoken to a lot of female students who had experienced these issues at gigs and it becomes a norm to just brush off sexual harassment in this environment which is not right.
I’ve chosen to collect donations for RSVP as it is a charity that is directly relevant to helping people who have experienced sexual harassment, assault and rape such as we will be discussing at the event, in the context of music gigs and festivals. Also, the work the charity does is so vital and I thought it was important to raise awareness of the support available and to reduce the stigma around speaking out about the issue of sexual assault which was one of the main reasons for organising the event. Finally, as RSVP is a local charity I wanted the event to give back and help our local community in Birmingham, especially with the recent targeting and sexual assault of female students around the Selly Oak area.
The event will be taking place on Saturday 18th March, 6-8pm in the Rosa Parks room of the Guild of Students at University of Birmingham. Find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1420530174687167/
Thank you to Sultana Rahmen and her friends at Aston University who organised their own unique version of ‘Take Me Out’ and raised almost £500 for RSVP.
You can read Sultana’s entertaining blog post about the evening at: https://shewhothoughtwrote.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/nolikeynolighty-things-just-got-a-little-spicy/
Below is an extract of a blog from Catherine Knibbs on internet use, social media and devices and the ethical questions that arise from counsellors in the therapeutic space.
There are many approaches and guidelines around how to use equipment you find in the kitchen. Call them directions, user guides or instructions, aka destructions in my household as no one ever reads them. Therein lies the problem…#skimming or #ignoring or #doesntapplytome (I’m using hashtags # to highlight the fact that this can be trend/pattern.
So if there was indeed a user guide for cyberspace would you ignore it? Skim over it? Throw it in the bin or digest every ounce of the contents? Did you know a document such as this actually exists for counsellors and psychotherapists and has done for a while?
That’s the one. Have you read it? What do you think about it, what are your reflections and what rights do you think you have for using your social media accounts as you see fit? What do you think about your clients and their social media usage?
Do you have rights? Do your clients? What might these be? What do you expect from the sites and applications (programs) that you use when it comes to privacy, harassment, location services and your right to express yourself as a human being on the Internet?
Ethical dilemma after ethical dilemma right?
What about the question that can often go unnoticed… What happens about your past or your opinions of today becoming your future? (or future past for that matter)
What effect will this have on you or your clients?
I have deliberately put questions forward in this article to get you thinking. Please feel free to feedback and let’s open this up for debate, I’m sure you will be surprised at both your response and others too. (I should also insert a comment about trolling and respect for each other, however the point is exactly that- – you never know the response that will occur after posting).
Now onto working with clients who bring technology into the room, again what rights do you have a counsellor to insist that the device is turned off or not brought into your room? Why would this be ethical or unethical? Do you know about geolocation and tagging? (go and google these terms if you’re not sure)
Would this have an effect on your practice? Do you have a right to have your device in the room?
What about access to the Internet? What about the content a client may show you that is on their phone? (Think #sexting and #underageconsent). Do you know enough about the internet to know what apps are safe, underage, ethical, secret or indeed coercive?
Read the rest of Catherine’s blog on her website www.cybertrauma.com
Catherine will be discussing these questions and more at the Cybertrauma training on Wednesday 8th March.
If you’re a qualified or student counsellor, you could make a huge difference to the lives of survivors of sexual violence by joining RSVP as a volunteer. You will be fully supported by a professional team and be part of a unique, specialised service in central Birmingham.
Counsellors support survivors of any kind of sexual violence, including rape, childhood sexual abuse, forced prostitution and sexual assault.
There are 12 spaces available. The deadline for applications is Thursday 27th April, and should be sent via email to email@example.com
More information, including interview and training dates, and the application form are in the links below.
To discuss further, contact Maria Dillon or Katie Simpson, Team Leaders on 0121 643 0301
This week has been recognised to give survivors, supporters, the general public and organisations the opportunity to share their views and generate discussion on sexual abuse and sexual violence.
During this week we hope to raise awareness about sexual abuse and sexual violence and how to help prevent it. Please follow the link below to see some more shares and discussions and even join in yourself.
RSVP have been awarded £18,818 from the People’s Postcode Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. A huge thank you to the trust and players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. The funds will be used to create self-help support and resources for survivors of sexual abuse.
There is a great need for therapeutic support that has lasting impact on the wellbeing of survivors. Self-help techniques ensure increased wellbeing that is sustainable as survivors have the tools, techniques and emotional literacy to cope in the future.
We will create a package of written self-help information, available online and in print on topics and issues important to survivors. We will also deliver a programme of group support, where survivors can receive peer support.