By Amber McClatchey
The process of recovering from sexual abuse is not one that is often discussed in any kind of context outside of the counselling room, let alone in creative or public media. This only adds to a culture of shame surrounding victimhood, and hinders the reduction of such crimes.
Bristol Zero Tolerance’s one-off evening of creative media exploring gender-based violence will include an exhibition of the previously unseen photography of six survivors of sexual abuse, who all took part in the See It From Her (SIFH) Suvivors Project workshops in July this year, challenging the stigma that surrounds speaking out about sexual violence.
SIFH is an organisation that gives women and girls the tools and support they need to tell their own story through the medium of photography, facilitating workshops and mentoring sessions that allow them to express themselves creatively. The specialist group workshops focus on specific issues and experiences, allowing those that take part to share their stories in a safe supportive environment with like-minded people. Past projects highlight the inclusive and diverse issues SIFH explores; and include a workshop for women from Roma gypsy communities, and one for survivors of modern day slavery and trafficking.
Bryony Ball, the Project Manager at SIFH, says;
“Women are still being defined by a culture created predominantly by men; regularly misrepresented and objectified in the media; pressured to fit into narrow and stereotypical representations of being female, leading to discrimination and dis-empowerment. SIFH believes every woman and girl has the right to represent herself how they would like to be seen and be in control of their own image.”
This ethos is clearly apparent in the content of the photographs to be exhibited on the 27th September at The Station as part of the Film Fest.
The subject matter that makes up the Survivors Project is as varied as the women’s experiences: some of the participants opted for more abstract representations of their experience, whilst others chose to focus on their own bodies, with reference to what had been done to them. However, all of the projects are intimate in a way that words cannot express; when understood and seen in the context of rape or other forms of sexual abuse.
Among the different photo sets, is work from Folami Prehaye, who was a victim of revenge pornography, an often overlooked form of sexual abuse, and who has depicted her journey through photography as a means to take back control of the images which were shared without her consent.
Folami now works to support other victims of internet crime, via her website www.voic.org.uk, which highlights the importance of keeping revenge pornography in the public eye.
Understandably, other photographers chose to remain anonymous.
The exhibition— which will feature as part of Bristol Zero Tolerance Film Fest’s wider exploration of gender-based violence and will also be displayed as part of their project the Big Screen Bristol later in the year — importantly allows the women who took part in the SIFH project to show the products of their work in a space that supports and encourages survivors to speak out. The effort they have all made to come forward and produce work that gives form to their experiences of sexual abuse serves as an extremely positive and empowering example to other survivors of gender-based violence.
Bristol Zero Tolerance is working to bring together the progress that is being made by organisations around the city to combat gender-based violence in its various forms. Ultimately, the initiative would like to see every individual survivor feel that they can come forward, that they will be believed, and that there is an opportunity to recover from their individual experience of trauma.
Charlotte Gage, Bristol Zero Tolerance’s Partnerships Project Officer said of the event: “We wanted to raise awareness about gender-based violence in a creative and exciting way, to challenge people and get them to ask questions about what gender-based violence is and what responses to it can be.”
She added that this film festival and exhibition, “is part of the wider work of Bristol Zero Tolerance to address attitudes and behaviours which condone and normalize gender-based violence and to create a city where this is no longer acceptable and everyone is able to get the help and support they need to live without fear.”
The evening will feature a selection of short films, kept secret until the night, all of which explore the common theme of gender-based violence. The shorts will then lead into a screening of US documentary Sin By Silence (2009), which follows the experiences of convicted female survivors of domestic abuse who formed a support group in prison in the 1990s.
The SIFH Survivors Project will be exhibited as part of the BZT Film Fest at The Station on 27th September 2016. Doors will open at 6.30pm, and will run until the end of the panel discussion at approximately 9.45pm. To find out more and book tickets see – https://www.facebook.com/events/272757366441200