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Recovery shouldn’t be a luxury: Hidden classism in the well-being world

By Bryony Jade Ball, co-founder of The Radical Resilience Project

First Published in Issue 5 of “Lumpen: A Journal for Poor and Working Class Writers”

As survivors of rape and sexual violence from working-class backgrounds, support for our trauma recovery was limited. Access to resources to help healing was minimal and any financial support, including applying for incapacity/disability benefits due to trauma, was complicated, long-winded and incredibly stressful. Any free counselling services had such long waiting lists and the support was both conditional and temporary. The services providing this support were also controlled by the middle class. Building a solid support network and accessing necessary mental health assistance is just not possible for survivors without money. Trying to make ends meet is hard enough, so self-care is not always something that we can easily achieve.

Recovery has somehow become a luxury that only a privileged few can engage in.

Having been let down by the systems in place and having worked within support services ourselves, we saw the absolute necessity for an alternative space for survivors to be able to build resilience and recover from trauma authentically. We set up the radical resilience project for survivors of rape and sexual violence to have autonomy, challenge harmful stereotypes, own our healing and claim back our space.

It started as a fund where survivors could take out mini grants or loans for things to help with their healing processes but is now growing to include mutual support, education and consultancy. The fund remains central to our work.

One of the things we found growing up working class and broke is that middle-class people don’t understand how difficult it is to find money to support self-care and healing. Simple things like buying some healthy food, a herbal tincture, a record, a takeaway, some moisturiser, a new pillow or a yoga class are all a complete luxury. But small things like these can have a massive difference to our day or even a whole week and the importance of being kind to ourselves and giving ourselves pleasurable gifts – particularly through trauma – is undervalued.

What people with money often don’t understand is that every penny counts, it isn’t just a saying for us. Finding a spare fiver is impossible when you don’t know how you are going to cover rent and know you have nobody you can borrow from – as people around you are all in similar positions.

Being able to have an extra £5/£10/£15 to buy something small you need, even if it is just phone credit or a magazine, is something that is so important when you suffer mental health issues.

Recovery and healing from trauma are costly and completely unaffordable for people in our position. Even when counselling services, therapists or holistic centres do ‘concessional rates’ it is usually just £5 off the original cost and doesn’t address the issue that finding any money (especially over £10) for anything outside ‘essential living costs’ is extremely difficult. On average a counselling session costs around £40 – £60 a week (alternative therapies can be way more) and concessional rates are rarely below £25. This is simply something many people cannot afford. Yes, it is cheaper but we still don’t have that to spare. This failure to appreciate what affordability is for the working classes is rooted in the skewed perception of wealth inequality of the middle and owning classes. In their ways of analysing what ‘low income’ and ‘real poverty’ means, we are seen to have more expendable income than we do..

The services that are available for free or subsidised are mainly snapped up by the middle classes because they have time to look for and apply for them. They know how to game the systems because they or people like them essentially created them and they know how to use the right language to gain access. Waiting lists for free trauma counselling can be up to 2 years.

If we can manage it we usually have to go through the uncomfortable process of ‘proving’ our poverty to be able to access the concessional rate. Proof can include bank statements, earnings, financial living costs broken down, concession forms and benefit letters. This is uncomfortable and often humiliating as there is immediately a distrust from the support giver around our lack of money. It creates uneven, unhealthy power dynamics from the start, where we are inferior and have to prove our worthiness. It is a forced vulnerability that we should not have to have put up with – particularly when already dealing with trauma.

When applying for financial support such as grants and loans of any kind, we are also subjected to these same painful processes of measuring our worth and finances in order to access even the smallest financial support.

This is why in setting up our fund we were adamant that it was built on trust, solidarity and mutual support rather than charity. Our form to access mini grants and loans only has six questions and only two are actually required: your PayPal account (or if you don’t have PayPal, the PayPal of someone who can receive the money for you) and the amount you’re requesting. The process is based on self-identification and autonomy. We don’t control who accesses the fund, what they do with the money after they receive it or ask for any kind of reporting or feedback. Mini loans are repayable whenever people are able with the understanding that if it is not possible to pay back, that is totally ok and there is no expectation or judgement. We don’t keep data or information on anyone and people are welcome to apply more than once.

At the moment we are only offering tiny grants and loans of up to £15 but we hope to offer larger amounts once we find more sustainable incomes. Unfortunately, major funding sources and sponsorship options are centred around proving impact, evaluating outcomes and controlling how money is used. These systems further oppress working class folk rather than support us. This is why we are independently funded and reject official charity and organisation structures.

When we explain how we operate one of the first things we are always asked is “How do you know people are telling the truth and that it is definitely real survivors applying?”. Again, this shows what immediate distrust people have (particularly privileged people) of those who are asking for help. The underlying thought is, are they worthy and are they deserving? Yes, maybe some people will apply who aren’t ‘survivors’ and might not seem like they ‘need’ the money but we are not here to judge or control who does or doesn’t need support. It is up to individuals to decide for themselves.

We are not a charity; we are a community and a movement – responsibility for distribution is shared by all, not owned by a privileged few.

There is more to this project than just money. The support services that offer free counselling, support groups or various therapies are usually set up by people with middle-class, white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual privilege, a saviour complex and a superior attitude. Even if we jump through all the hoops to access support or resources there are often many layers of problems.

Services are delivered inappropriately, with no real understanding of our experiences or needs.

A new part of our project is the mutual survivors support collective which is a response to the lack of appropriate one-to-one support available for survivors. We link survivors or people who have experienced rape or sexual violence with each other to co-support each other in a way that we choose individually with our co-supporter. We want to dismantle the idea that all care and support should be led or controlled by a superior. We need choices, agency, freedom and trust.

Another problem we have found with charities and support for ‘vulnerable people’ within them, is how privileged people approach giving. Christmas is a great example as many rush to donate things to those who are worse off than them. What is uncomfortable about this – other than the fact the compassion and kindness seems limited to the festive period – is that the actual items people donate are distasteful. They reek of charity. I used to work in a safe house and one Christmas a very wealthy company donated shoeboxes of gifts for the survivors. A couple of days before Christmas I opened them to check what was inside before putting them out. Wrapped up was a biro, a Tesco Value notebook, soap, a toothbrush and hand sanitiser, a £99p hairbrush with the tag still on and a sachet of cheap hot chocolate. I was disgusted. Particularly as many of these gifts were basic cleaning products and the women who were going to receive them were survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking. It was implying they were dirty – hand sanitiser for xmas really? (This was pre-Corona.) What this rich company was actually saying is “This is your worth”. I imagined what presents the people who had wrapped these had bought their families and what their Christmas day might look like. I imagined them patting themselves on the back after they had packed up these shitty gifts that they would never dream of giving to anyone they actually knew.

It’s similar at homeless shelters when rich people donate food parcels of supermarket basic cans and cheap food they would never even feed their pets, while enjoying Waitrose organic range at home themselves. We are supposed to be grateful for what we get, but these kinds of gifts come loaded with supremacy. Unfortunately, this kind of giving is not uncommon.

People with the most oppression and least privileges are used to being given second-rate things. Survivors in safe-houses often get donated awful second-hand clothes (stained, broken, baggy or just grim), badly knitted hats and gloves all in one style – as if we don’t even have taste or need choice because we are at the bottom of the ladder. What people donate says a lot about how they see us.

Not being able to afford to treat yourself is bad enough but when you are given ‘treats’ that are worthless and shitty you feel worthless and shitty. It does nothing for building up self-respect and resilience when you are feeling vulnerable.

When we started the Radical Resilience Project one of the things we wanted to include beside the fund was real gifts and treats for survivors. Things that can bring pleasure and excitement – because we need this for recovery as well as meeting our basic needs. We very deliberately looked at asking specific businesses to donate the very best. That is what we all deserve. We got things like gift vouchers for award winning hairdressers, festival tickets, a cookery school course, bottomless champagne brunches, a series of resources on sexual pleasure, vouchers for meals and drinks at top restaurants, pole dancing classes, tickets for cinemas, a women’s herbal medicine course, yoga classes and independent film subscriptions. Gifts should be joyful. Something of real value that makes us know our worth!

Recovery from trauma is hard and slow. We need finances to support our basic needs, we need access to counselling, therapeutic support, holistic therapies, knowledge around natural healthcare and we need real treats.

Even when we try to access these things the holistic world is dominated by middle-class, privileged people. Things like healing centres, herbal medicine, natural remedies and self-care support have become lucrative corporate commodities constructed for middle-class, able-bodied, white, cisgender, heterosexual people. This is ironic considering many of these practices and traditions were originally birthed from Black, Indigenous and People of colour, people without money, and outside the capitalist society. Now the most oppressed people can’t afford to be part of this world. When we can find a way in, it is a very uncomfortable space to be in as we feel like outsiders when most of us are not represented.

Because we have been made to feel like we don’t belong in these types of spaces, and because systems of access to healthcare force us to prove our worth repeatedly, many of us now feel undeserving of support. We discovered this early on in our project – it was incredibly difficult for people to feel able to take out mini grants or claim gifts as they don’t feel worthy enough. People we speak to always say “I don’t feel I deserve it” or “Someone else deserves it more than me”. This illustrates just how dangerous the conditions of our healthcare systems are. People have learned to measure their worth and needs in an extremely toxic way. For example, as survivors our worth is often based on being seen to behave in a way that society expects us to (show signs of suffering, trauma and fear) and to do what society thinks we should do (report to the police, accept support that we are offered that might not be right for us) and to visibly appear vulnerable and to be worthy of support.

We are trying to challenge this attitude of unworthiness within our project but are still unlearning it ourselves as it is hard-wired. In the meantime, to make our project more accessible we have created an option where people can nominate each other for a mini grant or gift..

While our project is tiny and still just at the beginning, we are hoping to radically shift the way people understand recovery and healing. Recovery and self-care is a human right and shouldn’t be a luxury. The Radical Resilience Project is about creating open spaces where we unlearn what we have been conditioned to believe that we deserve and what the ‘right’ way to heal is. A space where building resilience is not a privilege but a right.

To access the fund and mutual support or get in touch, go to www.theradicalresilienceproject.org. We are also on instagram @the_radical_resilience_project. We are independently funded so any financial support literally keeps this project possible – to donate you can use Paypal (theresiliencefunduk@gmail.com).

Sex, sexual pleasure, erotica and survivorship



As survivors and people who have experienced rape and sexual assault there is a huge taboo and uncomfortability when we talk about sex, sexual liberation, sexual objectification, erotica and kink. 
This uncomfortability often comes not from us, but from others’ misconceptions of rape and sexual violence. 
 
In the criminal justice system, to be seen as a ‘credible victim’ – particularly for womxn – you shouldn’t enjoy sex, have a lot of sex, engage in kink or erotica of any kind as it is used against you and your case. In basic terms the court assumes if you are a sexual person you were probably “asking for it”.
 
This attitude is particularly dangerous as it links sex and rape as if they are in the same catagory. Rape is sexualised violence forced on someone with violence without their consent. Sex is consenting people enjoying pleasure together. The difference is critical. If someone was murdered with a kitchen knife you wouldn’t say “was it murder or was it just cooking?” and you wouldn’t bring up their whole culinary past and say “well, they were in the kitchen when it happened and they did really like cooking, I think they were even a chef at one point, maybe they encouraged it”. 
 
There is so much stigma and shame about sexual pleasure as survivors. The sooner we start to differentiate clearly between rape and sex, the sooner we can move on from victim blaming and survivor stereotyping to address the real problems. 
 
We should focus on consent (rather than links between rape and sex) to start to dismantle the assumptions about what a survivor should look like and how we should behave.
 
Even within support services sex, sexuality and kink is not a topic that is spoken about positively and is avoided in support groups. It is often assumed many of us will not want sex or feel sexual after rape. Although this can unquestionably be true for some, many – ourselves included – feel that sex is so opposite to rape that having consentual, exciting, loving sex is not triggering at all and in fact is an incredibly important part of healing and building resilience. For us it is the stereotypes and associations of the two being linked by the criminal justice system, within our language, within the media and support services that has created these dangerous ideas and attitudes around rape survivors and how we view our sex lives. 
 
We need to normalise the idea that survivors (and everyone) can enjoy sex, pleasure, erotica and kink, can be sex workers and strippers, can enjoy having lots of sex with multiple partners, can have casual sex or sex with their partner and can enjoy porn or work in porn. We can also be asexual or not want sex and it have nothing to do with our trauma. We are not suggesting that nobody experiences triggers through sex after rape, but we need to start showing that it is also possible and normal not to. At the moment the narrative is that of a “broken” survivor who shouldn’t want to have sex and the “perfect victim” by society’s standards is someone who previously didn’t engage in any sex or enjoy it even with their partner/s!
 
There is also a lot of misplaced blame and misconceptions that comes from women’s organisations and feminist groups who feel sexual objectification of womxn, porn and sex work is wrong. We both used to share this view when we were younger. We believed womxn were harmed through images of womxn as sexual objects, through how womxn are represented within porn and through how womxn are expected to perform within sex work. 
 
While sexism, gender inequality and gender-based violence is still ingrained in our society, we need to start looking at the bigger picture. It is too narrow minded to just think that it is simply porn, objectification and sex work that is wrong. It is not the platform that is wrong but instead how it is used. What we need to look at is whether or not full consent exists within these dynamics and within these structures, not blame the platform or medium it exists within. 
 
Porn is simply an erotic artform and it is because it has been misused people see it as harmful. Erotic media in all forms, when everyone involved is consenting and happy it is an exciting and pleasurable space and we should be trying to shift the focus to consent and ethics rather than just trying to shut it down. 
 
Sex work is work and is not the same as trafficking. Sex work is a choice, trafficking and sexual exploitation is forced. If people are consenting, safe and choose to be doing sex work, we should be  fully supporting that choice. Many womxn and survivors choose this work and want to do this work and we need to support these decisions by supporting sex workers’ rights and fighting for the environment so that everyone is able to work safely.
 
Sexual objectification has been used negatively, the media uses womxn’s bodies dishonestly and inappropriately to sell things or create harmful stereotypes. Womxn have also been coerced into creating imagery they don’t agree with. This is clearly not ok. However, sexual objectification can be liberating too; to be able to strip everything back and view someone just as an object of pleasure and desire just for that moment and to have that focus on just the sensual and erotic – whether in the bedroom or in a photo or video – can be healthy and exciting as long as we all have control and choice. Many womxn want to authentically sexually objectify themselves, be objectified or objectify a consenting partner and we should support that as long as power dynamics are understood and everybody is consenting with freedom and joy.
 
Sex and sexual liberation is powerful. We should be allowed to objectify ourselves and each other if we want, allowed to have kinks, allowed to sell sex. We should be able to wear what we want and it not be used against us if someone attacks us with sexual assault or rape. 
 
So many of us love sex, kink and exploring sex and sexuality freely and we shouldn’t be judged for that, particularly as female survivors. We all should be able to talk about it without making others feel uncomfortable. We want to create environments where nobody feels uncomfortable because femxle pleasure and sexual desires are finally normalised.
 
We want to live in a society where we womxn and survivors are not labeled slags, hoes, slappers and whores (negatively) for enjoying sex – titles we have begun to love and reclaim –  but are accepted and celebrated. Lets frame the conversation into one where consent is the basic starting point.
 
We want to create a society where we are respected for our choices, consent is sexy, our boundaries are heard and where the erotic world is exciting, safe, beautiful and delicious.  

The disobedient survivor talks

How support services expect us to heal vs how we actually heal

Decolonise and dismantle survivor support structures!

Survivor support services promote dangerous ideas of linear healing and recovery throughout their services. They are pressured by funders and governing bodies to meet targets, prove improvements and show measurable recovery.
Not only are these expectations unrealistic, they also feed harmful westernised ideas of mental health and trauma. Their methods of diagnosing and supporting trauma fails survivors and does not reflect our individual needs.

Healing is not linear. Healing is not quantifiable. Healing is not a diagram. Healing is complex, unique and messy. It is also human. It is about learning to be ok with all feelings, good and difficult. It is not something that can be reduced to a diagram or fit into categories.

While becoming aware of our emotions and process is important in healing, it is damaging us the way survivor services pressure us into measuring our trauma and monitoring and evaluating our recovery in a way that fits the narrative they want. Because they need case studies, positive outcomes and specific results for their impact reports they control the way we asses and record our healing.
We need to challenge this deep set structural norm that makes us feel that we have to improve our mental health at the speed services control and the way services expect.
Instead let’s ask each other questions and create space and trust within healing to find our own pace and path in the ways that are right for us. 💞✨💞✨💞✨💞✨

Note to survivor services: we invite you to start an open dialogue with us. Please get in touch to connect. There will be more about this soon.

Response to JK Rowling

We as survivors stand with our sisters not just our cis-ters!

As survivors we feel it is imperative to make a statement in response to JK Rowling’s toxic views on trans and gender non conforming people (specifically seeing trans women as a threat and not accepting the identities and experiences of the non binary community).

It is violent to speak about cis women’s safety and experiences as survivors of rape, sexual assault or domestic abuse in order to further a dangerous agenda. 

Trans women are women. THIS IS NOT A DEBATE. You do not get to debate someone’s identity or existence. If you do not see this, then you need to do some work. Read. Your fear is because of dangerous myths and untrue ideas that are embedded within our society claiming that trans women are not women and therefore dangerous. This is irrational. This is a belief you have to challenge.

If you had a child and they were afraid of something that wasn’t true, you would support them to challenge that view so that they felt safe rather than perpetuate their unfounded fear.

Of course your safety is important. Nobody is arguing it’s not. BUT it is not trans women that are your threat. We are ALL living in a society that makes us unsafe, however trans women are in far more danger and experience more stigma and abuse than we cis women can possibly imagine. You are putting their lives at risk by perpetuating the idea that they are not “real women”. This is furthering the divide within our community and movement against violence towards womxn and the bigger forces that are in play; capitalist patriarchy.  We have to be very careful not to weaponise our trauma in order to devalue or disregard someone else’s.

Through coming out as a survivor with the platform that you have JK Rowling, you are silencing all those that aren’t survivors to be able to challenge your harmful views and encouraging other survivors to irrationally fear trans women.

We as survivors understand what feeling unsafe is like, we understand what violence and abuse towards us because of our gender and identity is like. We have more tools than most to empathise. We need to stand up for trans women not against them. We share some of the same oppressions and are oppressed by some of the same groups. You are consciously making the active decision to be an oppressor in the same way patriarchy oppresses us all.

SURVIVORS WE NEED TO STAND UP AGAINST THIS HATE! Safe spaces are for people that need safety and protection. We need to mutually support each other to ensure ALL our safety. Stand with all trans folk. Stand against violence to all womxn. #Survivorsstandwithtranswomen.

How support services see us vs reality

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New project!

We are beginning a new project!!! ✨✨✨
A network for survivors to both get and give 1-1 support, solidarity and connection.

The type of support (and accessibility) that survivor services and mental health services currently offer is not working for many people and we need radical alternatives. Now

Survivors tell us that they are desperate for something different. We are expanding what the Resilience Fund does and are exploring new ways of finding and creating mutual support collectively. Support that is individual, support where we are in control, support where we are able to have real connection and support that is accessible now.

This is why we are setting up TRF Mutual Survivors Support Collective to link up survivors with each other, to find ways to support one another. Ourselves.

This project is aimed at creating connections between survivors and building our strength and resilience collectively, in non-hierarchical ways.

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Gift Alert!

First come first served (email theradicalresilienceproject@gmail.com simply ‘I want’). This one is around sexual pleasure.

Joy in sexual pleasure is so important to our resilience and healing for many of us, but still often it is seen as a taboo subject; particularly an avoided in survivor services. We want to see more discussion around sexual pleasure, the erotic and the sensual within healing spaces so you will definitely see more from us on this.

OMGyes have given us 10 FREE access codes to both their series on ‘women’s sexual pleasure’.

OMGyes is an online visual platform that shares research and information on women’s* sexual pleasure. This includes research gathered from over 20,000 *women.

OMGyes Original + The Inner Pleasure Collection (usually £59)
The original (practical techniques to enhance clitoral pleasure solo or as a couple, 60 short videos & 12 touchable simulations) practical techniques to enhance pleasure with inner stimulation and penetration, solo or as a couple. Over 180 short videos in total.

https://www.omgyes.com

*Disclaimer (you know we love a disclaimer): This is for anyone but we want to acknowledge that OMGyes focuses on cis women’s experience and pleasure. This is not inclusive as does not acknowledge the importance of involving all womxn and all those with vulvas within their research.

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💞🌺💗👅

Hi! We haven’t posted for a while. We both had to return suddenly to separate countries because of the crisis (Meg in the UK and Bryony in Greece). We are both in isolation and missing each other and general human contact immensely.
We are connecting, talking, laughing and working through video chat however.

We want to acknowledge how incredibly hard this must be for everyone and send so much love, strength, resilience and power to all of you. In the weeks to come we will be more present online with as much support as we can offer. We are just trying to figure out, like everyone else, the best way to do this.

We are thinking of more online support in different forms including the possibility of an online mini retreat/workshops and working on a 1-1 survivor support club. Any ideas please let us know.

We have a couple of questions for you:

What do you need?
What do you want to see from us/this project?
What would you like to see from an online weekend retreat?

Please please remember to take out a mini grant to help build your resilience- now is the time more than ever to support and treat yourself.

Friends and those with money please support by donating to us to support more people through this time. PayPal theresiliencefunduk@gmail.com

Love and hugs xxxx

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GIFTS GIFTS GIFTS

Gifts gifts gifts!!!🎊🎀🎁 👸🎁👸🎁🎀🎊
We dressed up as gifts to entertain ourselves…⚡✨⚡✨⚡✨

Also to tell you that there are lots of exciting gifts and treats we have been given and will be offering out over the next week. Things like gift vouchers for glamorous restaurants, exciting courses, tickets and more. 🎫💌🤸‍♀💃🌹🥂🍽
Look out on our social media and here as we will be offering stuff each day and it will be on a first come first served basis. 👀

If you know someone who you think would really enjoy one of the gifts you can ask for it on their behalf too!

So please please please share the resilience fund, invite people to like it on FB and Insta and tell people about it! Especially those of you in the Bristol/Bath area as the gifts are local to Bristol and Bath. ☝

We want to reach more people so please give us a gift by sharing the word! Love and power 💥💥💗💗