TRANSFORMING SEXUAL TRAUMA INTO LITERATURE

Authors to share their experiences of sexual abuse and violence in online discussion

For the first time in Northern Ireland local authors who have experienced sexual violence will discuss how writing has offered them a form of trauma therapy in an online discussion hosted by Nexus, Northern Ireland’s specialist sexual counselling charity.

A distinguished panel of local and international authors will speak of transforming their own lived experiences of sexual violence and abuse into different forms of literature, with a specific focus on the Northern Irish context. Belfast based playwright Jo Egan, Coleraine writer Hilary McCollum, poet Shelley Tracey who moved to Northern Ireland from South Africa over 25 years ago will be in conversation with author and activist Winnie M Li who was violently raped in Belfast in 2008.

The free-to-attend event, on Thursday 20th May, is part of a collaboration between Nexus and Clear Lines, the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to addressing sexual assault, abuse, and consent through the arts and discussion and has been made possible by funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The rates of sexual violence and abuse remain high in Northern Ireland. Figures from 2019/20 showed that there was an almost 7% increase in the number of prosecution cases of rape, and 5.6% increase in other sexual offences in Northern Ireland.

Brenda Kelly, Chief Executive of Nexus said, ‘Writers are uniquely placed to illuminate the psychological landscape behind these serious sexual crimes and their aftermath. The journey and experience of authoring one’s own narrative can be different for each individual. The acts of reading and writing allow individuals a vital means of confronting an often-stigmatised life experience. This free-to-attend honest discussion will be of interest to victims and survivors, advocates against sexual violence, as well as writers and avid readers.’

Winnie M Li said: ‘It means a great deal to me, to continue widening the conversation around sexual violence and abuse in Northern Ireland. I’m looking forward to speaking to these three committed women writers, whose literary talent and life experiences testify to the importance of writing in confronting these crimes. Since my own rape in Belfast in 2008, I’ve been on an unexpected, but ever-deepening journey that’s introduced me to communities of survivors, activists, advocates, and writers. There is so much opportunity for connection and greater understanding around these experiences, as I’ve learned since founding the Clear Lines Festival six years ago. I’m thrilled to bring this event to Northern Ireland, and especially in collaboration with Nexus. Many thanks to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for making it possible through my Individual Artist Grant.’

Those attending the expect a wide-ranging dialogue including literary and ethical choices when drawing upon life experiences of sexual harms and how particular forms of writing allows a survivor to convey the mental health and bodily impacts of trauma, and the recovery from it. An audience question and answer session will follow the discussion.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, commented: “The arts are well known for their ability to help give people a voice to process and express difficult and complex life experiences, and to share our experiences with others. We are delighted to support Winnie M Li to bring this event to Northern Ireland and give the writers a public platform to discuss these important issues, which will resonate with many.”

To register for the free online event on Thursday 20th May at 5pm go to: www.nexusni.org/literary-event

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