Engaging with local artists and young people to co-create a resource on domestic abuse, helping young people learn about what is acceptable and not acceptable in relationships.
About 'Sometimes it Hurts'
Sometimes it Hurts, by Changing Relations, is a collection of six illustrated short stories reflecting a diverse range of young people who all have one thing in common: that they are experiencing something at home that hurts them. The stories were created by working collaboratively with young people, some who have experienced or witnessed domestic abuse themselves.
In my role as Associate Writer, my task was to run ten sessions with the young people we were collaborating with, exploring issues such as domestic abuse and healthy / unhealthy relationships through writing and artistic prompts. The sessions enabled them to create their own work while also shaping the six stories included in the Sometimes it Hurts booklet.
After our time together, I went away and wrote the six stories, though the character names and backgrounds, family circumstances and much of the plot had already been decided by the young people. There was then an opportunity for them to edit and give feedback on the authenticity and accuracy of each narrative I had created, ensuring that the stories were shaped by them every step of the way.
After the stories had been finalised, the wonderful illustrator Tamsin Rees and animator Sheryl Jenkins sprang into action, creating a thoughtfully designed booklet and accompanying animation.
Finally, just before the summer holidays, we were able to take these resources into selected schools, colleges and youth drama groups to run pilot sessions for groups of young people there. During these sessions we introduced the young people to the booklet, read through one or two of the stories, watched the animation and then worked on discussion-based or arts-based exercises on the topics raised. There was some really valuable feedback from both staff and students, which will now shape how Changing Relations moves forward with any further resource creation, and how they distribute the booklet and animation.
This was an absolutely wonderful project to be a part of. It wasn't without its challenges - working with such difficult subject matter in the midst of multiple national lockdowns was definitely not easy - but it was super rewarding and the end product is a really thoughtful piece of work which will help those working with young people to better approach the topic of domestic abuse.
I know myself how difficult it is to find inclusive resources, ones that don't just dance around difficult topics but tackle them head on. I'll definitely be using the booklet with some of the groups I work with and I look forward to being part of what comes next for the project!
In the spirit of sharing inclusive resources, here are some of the books and poems I used as stimuli during my ten writing sessions (those with asterisks directly refer to domestic abuse, sexual assault and/or unhealthy relationships):
The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Q Raúf*
Me Mam. Me Dad. Me by Malcolm Duffy*
The Colour of the Sun by David Almond
Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence*
The Burning by Laura Bates*
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson*
You Are Your Home by Erin Hanson
Still I Rise by Maya Angelou