Welcome to Chapter 3 where we will be sharpening our focus on the use of narrative practice in work with those who have experienced gendered violence. However, our attention to intersectionality invites us to move beyond an analysis of just gender to considering the ways that systems of oppression relating to race, class, caste, bodies, sexualities, genders and abilities interact with, compound and shape experiences of and responses to violence. In this packed chapter you will explore some wonderful examples of how narrative practices can support us to hold tight to multi-storied accounts of lives and relationships and generate rich alternative stories of resistance, reclamation and connection.
Introducing Maya Sen (she/ her): Maya is a social worker and narrative therapist who lives and works in Kolkata, India. Maya is a member of the international faculty at Dulwich Centre, and works as a tutor in various teaching projects. She is associated with Mansitherapy, a psychotherapy service in Kolkata. She also works in mental health projects in the social development sector, particularly in the context of child protection and gender-based violence.
To get us started, Natalie Smee speaks about her work on Gumbaynggir Country in Australia with women impacted by domestic violence. Together they collated a booklet sharing stories of migration for other women who are considering their own migrations from violence.
Out of the shadow of domestic violence by Natalie Smee (she/her) [37:51]
Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese, who we met in the first chapter, describes the coming together of Samoan community in Aotearoa New Zealand to address violence and abuse in culturally resonant ways. With groups separated by age and gender, the community was able to define violence through processes that were accountable to those most affected and to develop initiatives to respond while reconnecting with pre-colonial gender arrangements aligned with nonviolence.
How can ‘feminist ethics can support a nonblaming or shaming orientation towards fathers who have violated their children’s trust and love’. Carolyn Markey illustrates the importance of providing opportunities for multi-storied accounts of relationships in families in which violence is present and practical possibilities for inviting fathers into accountability for the effects of violence without endangering their partners or children.
Using narrative ideas to support families where a loved father has been violent towards his female partner and continues to live at home at the request of his children by Carolyn Markey (she/her) [37:54]
Through intergenerational and cross-racial partnership, Lisa Berndt (a 49-year-old white woman) and Dawn (a 15-year-old African American woman) unveil the compounding operations of pop culture, racism, sexism and classism in Dawn’s life. Lisa generously shares dilemmas, principles and practices of accountability that guided her three conversations with Dawn and her godmother.
Pat Durish invites us to consider the limitations of traditional gender-based understandings of violence and shares principles that guide her work of responding to relationship violence in the Toronto LGBTIQ community.
Loretta Pederson from Sydney, Australia, describes her interest and practice of making visible acts of resistance by women during experiences of abuse as well as acts of resistance to the ongoing effects of abuse.
Acts of resistance, acts of reclaiming by Loretta Pederson (she/her) [19:39]
Marnie Sather co-explores the complex realms of grieving a male partner who enacted abuse or violence and died by suicide, and the double stigma experienced by those left behind. She invites us to consider multi-storied re-membering practices that make space for various and contradictory accounts of experience and relationship.
‘So often, stories told about rape are stories of shame, humiliation and secrecy. I think it’s so important to tell the other stories – stories of survival.’ In this transcript, Kate shares with us her story of survival.
‘In what ways can we resist individualism, damage-centred narratives and collective passivity in order to nurture hope, solidarity or mutuality within communities? How might we invite friends and allies to take responsibility and act in solidarity, so that the weight of resisting rape culture and recovery does not fall entirely to victims? How do we avoid separating healing from justice or therapy from social action?’ Dương Đặng describes an innovative collective narrative practice project that responds to these questions by centring friendship.
Creating ripples: Fostering collective healing from and resistance to sexual violence through friendships by Michelle Dang (she/her) *Dương/Ocean Đặng was formerly known as Michelle
And last but not least, Hung Suet-Lin invites us to consider how we might expand concepts of justice and healing for those who have experienced gendered violence, and how we might make available more options than those provided through carceral systems like those in Hong Kong.
People undertaking this course might be receivers of testimonies of violence at various points in their lives and work. This could be in the context of multiple roles (e.g. as a mental health worker, as a social worker, as a legal professional, as a family member or friend, as a community member).
As people who might be receivers of stories of violence, thinking about our responsibilities while attending to these stories becomes an important consideration. Keeping this in mind, we invite you to reflect on the following questions inspired by the ‘outsider witness’ categories of enquiry:
- What have the readings got you thinking about in terms of your responsibilities as receivers of stories of violence?
- Is there a particular principle, practice, idea or expression from the readings that you are thinking about while reflecting on this?
- Does an image, song or story come to mind in relation to this?
- Why is this idea or principle important to you? In what way does it connect to your own experiences of doing this work and relating to the issue of gender-based violence?
- What will you do differently as a result of connecting with this idea or principle?
Please share your reflections below in the forum!
Optional further activities
There are so many more examples of intersectional feminist narrative practice responding to gendered violence and we would have loved to share more with you. Here are a few for those interested in extending their explorations:
- Narrative approaches for a domestic abuse hotline by Ryo Lumsden (she/her)
- Seasons of change: Cross-cultural partnerships in co-researching change while navigating experiences of violence against self-identified women in Nepal by Julia Scharinger (she/her)
- Turning hopelessness into action: Narrative responses to the late-2018 political context by Tiffany Sostar (they/them)