Since March this year, some New Pathways staff and clients have been working on a project to reduce stigma around sexual violence and encourage people in Mid-Wales to come forward for help.
This ‘Messages of Hope” project is the result of a collaboration between New Pathways, HARP (Health, Arts, Research, People) at NESTA and two local artists, Jain Boon and Matilda Tonkin-Wells, to use the arts to find a creative way to address this identified need. The project aims to give people affected by sexual violence the confidence and reassurance to access Mid Wales Rape Support Centre, through the experiences of service users who have accessed services and are on their journeys to recovery.
Although we supported over 8500 people in 2020-21, there are many more people affected by sexual violence who do not come forward for support due to stigma and shame, or a lack of awareness of the support that is available. The Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates that 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 (2020), and 7.5% of adults experience sexual abuse before the age of 16 (2019); but 83% do not report their experiences to the police, and many said that they did not seek help due to shame and embarrassment. Based on our own research and feedback we’ve received, people in Mid-Wales and rural areas are even less likely to come forward for help, which is why the team chose to focus on this area.
The team worked collaboratively with New Pathways’ service users through a series of creative workshops, exploring the messages that current and former service users would have wanted to hear at the start of their journey in seeking support, and the result was an online exhibition showcasing artistic messages of hope through poems, videos, photographs and words of reassurance, all designed and created by the clients.
Peter Griffiths, Community Engagement and Training Officer at New Pathways:
“I have been humbled to have been a part of the project and am immensely proud of our clients’ contributions. The project highlighted the incredible strength and resilience of the clients involved. I’m confident that their Messages of Hope will have a ripple effect and encourage other survivors of sexual violence to access our services and get the help and support they need.”
Mike Wilkinson, New Pathways’ Deputy CEO:
“This has been a wonderful project to be involved in. Our organisation supports people affected by rape and sexual abuse, and quite often the hardest thing for our clients to do is to speak about their experiences or to even ask for help. By merging arts with our knowledge of trauma-informed therapy we hoped to explore ways of making those conversations easier for people. However, the process has far exceeded our expectations and has led us to think more creatively about our services and how we facilitate client expression and recovery.”
Matilda Tonkin-Wells, Dance Artist/Dance Psychotherapist:
“The Messages of Hope project has unfolded and evolved in a way that only co-created projects can. Working closely with this group of inspiring people from New Pathways has been a great honour. Getting to witness and support people’s creativity blossom as we worked towards exploring ways of raising awareness of the work that New Pathways does is a treat for any artist and I’d do it all again in an instant!”
The Messages of Hope website is now live, and the hope is that these powerful messages will reach those that need to hear them, and will lead to a greater awareness of the support that is available to anyone affected by sexual violence, and will reduce shame, isolation and stigma.
Access the exhibition here: Messages of Hope
If you have been affected by sexual violence and you need support, or you would like to find out more information about our services, please contact us by phone (01685 379310), email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us via our website or social media.