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"Not Consent": Statement of solidarity with refugees and migrants [04/10/2019]

We, the undersigned, all collaborated to bring the Not Consent Exhibition to venues across Ireland. We would like to affirm the following:

1. Refugees and migrants seeking to live in Ireland are our brothers and sisters.

2. Many of them are victims and survivors of violence, including rape and sexual assault as weapons of war, at the hands of traffickers, and others.

3. Their ability to heal from these wounds is negatively impacted by the very real necessity to navigate the legal, cultural, and socio-economic complexities that refuge-seeking in Ireland entails.

4. We absolutely condemn anyone who colludes with the oppression of these, our brothers and sisters, by controlling them or placing them in abusive conditions.

5. The direct provision and emergency accommodation systems in Ireland lead to conditions which control, abuse, and disregard the human rights of those who are in this country seeking refuge.

6. Agency, consent and other freedoms of choice are a fiction in these circumstances.

7. We stand with migrants, against these systems, and against those who operate them.

Shaneda Daly, FOUNDER SURVIVORS SIDE BY SIDE

Ruth Maxwell, FOUNDER NOT CONSENT

Anna Morvern & Sorcha Fox, SURVIVORS WITH BIROS

Linda Hayden FOUNDER AASVI

Hazel Larkin SPOKESPERSON AASVI

Biro Buddies 2019 [07/08/2019]

In September-October 2019, I will be facilitating a series of creative writing workshops in Tubbercurry as per the poster on the right.

The workshops are free thanks to funding obtained from MSLETB, but places are limited so early booking is recommended.

This particular workshop series is not aimed exclusively at survivors, but at anyone who has experienced a difficult challenge in life and who would like to learn some expressive writing techniques in a supportive group. Survivors are, of course, very welcome to participate.

Contact birobuddies2019@gmail.com

Anna Morvern

Facilitator

An Focal Scoir on BBC2 NI to feature "Not Consent" [13/05/2019]

Survivors With Biros collaborated with Ruth Maxwell, curator of the exhibition, "Not Consent", and with grassroots survivor group, Survivors Side by Side, to bring the exhibition to Sligo back in January. The event was supported by the host venue, IT Sligo, and received coverage and publicity from The Model, and the Sligo Champion. Scroll down within this blog to read more about it.

"Not Consent" featured the clothing worn by adult and child victims of rape and sexual crime, and sparked a valuable discussion on consent and survivor needs across Ireland as the exhibition toured Ireland with support from victims/survivors and a variety of host venues including the Institute of Technology in Sligo.

"Not Consent" was filmed as part of a documentary surrounding the issue of consent which will appear on "An Focal Scoir" on BBC2 NI at 10 pm tonight. An Focal Scoir is a studio discussion series featuring analysis of a number of wide-randing stories and topics.

"Not Consent" Exhibition in Sligo [29/01/19]

The  Exhibition, "Not Consent" features clothes worn by survivors of rape and sexual assault, including a Communion dress, a woman's running clothes and a man's casual outfit.

The organiser of the event Ruth Maxwell created the exhibition in the wake of surviving her own experience of assault. Attacked by a man with a hunting knife on her way to work in Dublin on May 16, 2016, Ruth successfully managed to stop the assailant by grabbing the weapon in her own hand, causing gruesome injuries but managing to free herself. The case played a key role in a garda investigation linking this incident to two other attacks on women in the area and resulted in a conviction against the man for all three incidents.

Survivors With Biros helped to bring the event to Sligo: hosted in IT Sligo, and supported by The Model, the project went ahead in collaboration with Shaneda Daly from Survivors Side by Side, Ignazio Graffio from Change Your Mind Festival, Sligo Rape Crisis and Survivors With Biros.

Ruth Maxwell said:

“The event was inspired by the photo exhibition Katherine Cambareri did for her thesis of clothing worn by sexual assault and rape victims as well as my love of art and my own personal experience. I wanted to bring this powerful message to life to create awareness around the issue of consent and I am delighted to be bringing this exhibition to Sligo with a number of incredible organizations.”

Leitrim-based performance poet and actor, Sorcha Fox, read poems by members of Survivors With Biros and group founder, Anna Morvern, spoke about her own healing from childhood sexual abuse and how expressive writing can provide a powerful tool for self-empowerment.

Survivors With Biros Presentation to Psychiatrists [01/10/18]

As facilitator of Survivors With Biros, I was invited to give a one-hour presentation on how I facilitate expressive writing with survivors of childhood sexual abuse, to a group of Consultant and Registrar Psychiatrists at St Columbas Hospital in Sligo.

This meeting provided an excellent opportunity for me to outline the many ways in which expressive writing can help survivors thrive beyond the myriad effects of childhood trauma. I gave details on how these techniques are facilitated at Survivors With Biros, and read from some of the anonymous work produced by the group. I spoke about my own background as a survivor in the course of the presentation, and there was a discussion with questions and answers at the end of my visit to the hospital training centre.

Thanks go to the doctors for being open to hearing more about this way of working, and for providing such positive feedback:

  • “Beautiful presentation; excellent, inspiring, aspiring work; powerful.”

  • “Enlightening talk. Provided insight into what survivors go through in the process of healing.”

  • “It was a nice presentation and informative regarding the effects of this therapy on survivors of CSA.”

  • “Good work and excellent presentation. Provides great insight into the benefits of creative writing – also provides an outlet for expression. Thank you and keep up the good work!”

  • “Very good, and strong presentation. It’s not easy to talk about your emotions and previous bad memories but you did it very well…thanks for all this good work that you are doing for this needy cohort of people.”

  • “Really good presentation about the power or writing as an expression of feelings.”

  • “It was a very insightful presentation on creativity. Can be used very effectively as a healing tool – via promotion of motivation, self-identity, resilience, self-belief, etc.”

  • “Thought-provoking, informative, educational and interesting talk.”

Thankfully, it seems that Irish psychiatric institutions have undergone many transformations since the days when individuals in need of mental health services were committed to asylums, as described by journalist Una Mullally in her recent, Irish Times article. Here, Mullally looks back to the 1980s when feminist Kate Millett was “confined” in Our Lady’s Hospital, in 1980, the subject of her novel, “The Loony-Bin Trip”.

 

However, survivors of childhood sexual abuse can still struggle with the anxiety of being labelled sick, mad, or bad. Those anxieties are the subject of a poem I wrote, reflecting on my presentation to St Columbas Hospital. I hope it expresses the need for solidarity between service providers and survivors:

Survivors Song

The sickness isn’t ours.

If it were a building,

You’d see rapists and attackers dwelling there

And find us razing it to the ground,

To an acre of rocks,

Chipping at the bricks with our fingers.

 

The madness isn’t ours.

If it were a country,

The perpetrators would be in government,

And you’d see us sailing far away,

In a home-made lifeboat,

Shying away from no storm or squall.

 

The badness isn’t ours.

If it were an anthem,

You’d hear them reciting it time and again,

And us refusing to say one word

Even though we know it

Off by heart and line by ruthless line.

 

Hear us out as they

Say a problem shared is

A problem halved, but this isn’t an apple,

Neatly sliced in two with a knife blade,

It’s the crux of our quest

For belief and support.

 

The fear, the anger, the hope

Are ours as we stand here

On the debris of yesterday far from the

Place we left, with the words of their

                                    harsh hymns

Ringing in our ears.

 

Will you help us clear away this wreckage,

Build a new homeland, write our own song?

(c) Anna Morvern