Somewhere among the clouds
my mind reflects back at me
creating faces in moments
telling stories with whipped cream
floating overhead they enshroud
changing colours of our family tree
searching for every branches atonement
shadows engulf my daydreams
Somewhere among the leaves
I am laid down to rest
foliage surrounds my anatomy
craving the light from beneath
rustling below my knees
knowing I am dispossessed
with the numbness of apathy
as the earth moves underneath
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A safe space is somewhere where hate speech and prejudice is not permitted. This term began to be widely understood in educational institutions and began as a space for the LGBTQ community, to be free of persecution and being silenced by heterosexual privilege. Now we have safe spaces in community groups and online – as well as on campuses and school grounds.
These safe spaces have been met with controversy that they prevent free speech and create unrealistic bubbles. This is of course not at all what they are meant to be, however privilege can make people who have not come up against stigma and prejudice in their lives, feel attacked and blamed – hence their reaction and misunderstanding of why safe spaces exist. It is in no way to silence free speech – in fact it is the very opposite, it is a place where people who are marginalised can speak out about their lives, their beliefs and not be silenced by a majority who have the platform and spotlight at all times. It encourages free speech and diversity, however it does not allow for people to bring hateful ideas into the space to force their opinions or beliefs on a minority.
There is also another kind of safe space and this is what I wish to talk about today; the online group/forum which is often used for vulnerable people. These are more like safe spaces within therapy – a place where people who have been sexually, emotionally or physically abused can come and share to help in the healing process and also shed light on the situation and raise awareness. Also this applies to groups with certain illnesses or disorders, ones such as mental or unseen illness, disabilities and so many more… As well as communities of neuro-divergent people or places people can speak anonymously.
These places can overlap – such as Link You Life, this group is not only a safe space for people to share their creativity, their lives and experiences but also it is a space with many vulnerable people in it. When you have such diverse spaces it is important to maintain structure and clear boundaries for members to follow. This way you can be as fair as possible with the group collective in mind at all times.
Trigger warnings are a method to aid in these boundaries, with the warnings in place – people can safely use the space without causing themselves adverse damage by being psychologically triggered by a post. The word triggered is overused in our language nowadays and has lost its validity and importance when in reference to trauma and serious harm, which can be caused if a person is suffering from certain illnesses, such as PTSD, CPTSD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders and personality disorders. It is not a word to be used just because you saw something you did not like or it upset you, this is just life and the reality of it.
Safe spaces are unreal, they don’t exist in our world unless created, life in fact is painful, sad and can be very dangerous for many, so if we did spend all of our time in a safe space, this would be very dysfunctional and render us unable to deal with the enormity of life and its perils. However this is not what we are asking for, we are asking for a space which we can go to and be safe to express ourselves and share our lives with others who are there for the same reasons.
So as a moderator of Link Your Life with this all in mind I take my role very seriously and I support my other LYL moderators and the members. It can mean making tough decisions and it can mean challenging ones self when dealing with others you may have never met. This is why we have a diverse range of moderators in order to maintain a non bias platform for others.
Personally due to my particular illnesses and disorders as well as my past, safe spaces are not as important to me and on this website and on my social media I do not use trigger warnings as I feel I am triggered every day – by life, so feel as an activist I must thrust my experiences as a mentally ill person and a survivor of sexual abuse and violence onto my audience and then it is up to them to un-follow me if it is too much. But this is my real life and everyday, this is outside the context of a safe space, so when I do enter the safe space – (even though my impulsive nature and black and white thinking are what shield me and allow me to be so direct), my pain and my vulnerability are given a moment to recuperate and get ready for the next battle. As well as this I see how beneficial these spaces are for others – how space like this can give someone a voice and the opportunity to be heard, maybe for the first time in their lives and if someone has an issue with this, then they may need their own safe space to investigate, why someone being heard makes them so angry.
So the next time you hear the words “Safe Space”, be mindful of why this space exists and remember that the world is cruel and if we as individuals need to take a break, so that we can be heard or so that we can be seen – this does not stop you or anyone else doing the same.
If you have any questions about this post or wish to comment please fill in the form below, thank you:
Living in this world as a victim who survived sexual violence, assault and child molestation I have had to learn from an early age that the systems of power and society are against me due to my gender and mental illness. People speak of you with either a perception of doubt and contempt, a whispered shamefulness – or deem you as a broken shell of a human, with no use; it makes people uncomfortable. These people are the ones that if they read or see a depiction on film/TV similar to your situation, will dissect and find a way to blame the victim, even when it is a child, they do this in front of you – holding on tightly to the idea of the “Rape Myth“.
Perceptions of rape and any form of sexual assault or abuse are somewhat still judged by our prehistoric natures, along with murder – this need to defile and desecrate another human is sadly a behaviour which seems to be harder to evolve past. However even though there are sociobiological theories of rape which have been heavily criticised for assuming that only young attractive women are raped or that rape is motivated by desires and sexual needs only; is why this research needs to be considered but not seen as a completed study. We can not argue that rape has been used as a tool by our species. With high status and powerful males enslaving women as their playthings throughout history, with rape being used as a weapon of war to ethnically cleanse or to humiliate the opposing combatants. However the question which seems too complex to answer is whether this is something our species has innately, or is a behavioural component, which due to our long history of patriarchal power has never been challenged – until very recently, as more and more women are emancipated from their male family members.
So why is the “rape myth” still so prevalent today?
This month has been very triggering for most survivors, with Donald Trump admitting he has sexually assaulted women, with Brock Turner being released from his pitifully short sentence and with Ched Evans being acquitted after his family paid £50,000 for information from past lovers of the victim and then brought forward two ex partners and using the victims previous sexual behaviour against her in the case. These three high profile examples of how our world is determined to reinforce rape culture, show that power, privilege and using a woman’s sexuality to discredit her, are all achievable ways that men and boys who have never challenged these archaic ideas can “get away with it”. That they can be given the impression, it is their right, that their future is more important than a girl or woman’s or that women can’t be trusted especially if sexually active.
When I was raped at 15 by a boy in my school, many things were used against me – this was back in 1999 in England and even though I had a lot of evidence against him, still it was much more “prove she is not credible” rather than “prove he is guilty”. The fact I had fancied the boy was a big thing used against me, which as a child myself became confusing – when people repeated this to me again and again;
“but you fancied him, you wanted him to fancy you”?
These things were true but did not cancel out the fact he violently raped me. It was 1999 and it was as if people had not ever challenged the idea that:
1) rape has nothing to do with being attracted to someone
2) you can’t be raped by someone you fancy, which as an adult, now – I have no problem understanding. I blamed myself for years, thinking
“it was my fault, I fancied him, so he had the right”.
However the most disturbing of “victim blaming” I experienced was that of my mental illness and disability being used against me – to discredit me by suggesting my ability to understand what happened to me was impaired or that I had done this to myself. Having been severally sexually traumatised vaginally and anally which meant I had to have internal and external surgery on my genital areas, it was clear to the physicians and police examiners that this was from forced aggressive penetration. However this was not what my rapists Mother said – who spread the false information that I had in fact self harmed my genitals to frame and blame him. This spread like wild fire amongst the students at my school, teachers and parents and due to my unstable mental health displayed in school previously – many just assumed this must be true about “that crazy girl”.
There are still people from my school year who are addiment I lied and that I did it out of some sort of “crazy” spite or something to that effect. But one thing has always bothered me about these people, they seem to accept that he was convicted for grievous bodily harm – that he beat me and cut me open with his force and violence, however this to them is not rape or sexual assault, this is fine, because I was asking for it.
My rapist was not convicted of rape, the police told me that this was due to his age – as he was also 15 and the fact that they could not determine and prove a lack of consent (like with so many cases). So he was convicted of GBH and Unlawful Sex – he was put on the sex offenders register and was on a tag for 12 months, but this was still not enough regardless of the outcome for some. It did not matter that I was bruised, bleeding and emotionally broken ready to take my own life, to them I was a whore and an opportunist.
It took so long for me to accept my rape as rape – this was due to our culture, my upbringing and my age. Once able to detach the 15 year old girl from being the primary source of all my information on what happened to me, I was able to look at it with adult eyes, eyes which have now survived and lived.
It was only 2 years ago – having turned 30 and reaching the point that I had lived 15 years on from my assault, whilst doing intense reliving therapy for my CPTSD, that revisiting my memories voluntarily was possible – apposed to flash backs and intrusive thoughts. Through this new lens of awareness I saw 15 year old me held down (face down) crying into the sheets as the boy raped me or of myself choking from forced oral penetration, it was then and only then that all the other details fell away – what I was wearing, that I fancied him, that I had gone into the room voluntarily and that straight after it had happened I had told my friends we had just had sex, to fit in, as I did not understand what had happened to me. These details were not what happened to me, these details were from society’s ideas of girls and women – from a rhetoric that found me (the victim) more guilty than the perpetrator.
The facts are – I did not give consent and could not stop what happened to me due to fear and force. That until you are in a situation like this, a rape – that did not happen in a dark alley by a scary man, but one that happened by someone you knew, liked or loved, it is then you realise how we do ourselves as a species an injustice. We do not prepare girls and boys for the real dangers – we are not taught about consent and of how important this is. Instead as a girl you are taught you must prevent yourself from being raped or targeted by men, that you are the only one in control of this. Or that you must defend yourself by carrying a weapon or whistle, your told “scream out”, or you are told “cover up” don’t give men ideas or an invitation. Boys are then treated as if they are less responsible when it comes to sexual behaviour, that promiscuity is acceptable and even encouraged in an environment of toxic masculinity, with the idea a girl or woman needs to be “ruined” or “broken in”, a sense of entitlement is continued and facilitated. All the while placing all people who identify as male in one patriarchal predatory box , a box – which if male and you are the victim of rape, then this is not taken seriously, and is ridiculed or deemed to be a weakness, clamming “real men can’t be raped”.
Despite considerable research and publications in professional and popular journals concerning rape, such myths continue to persist in the minds of the masses.
We need to stop:
assuming that women and girls are more likely to lie about being raped than being raped. Of course false rape allegations exist, I have even witnessed one myself – however our culture reflects a problematic discourse when addressing this issue. Whichever stance is taken the girl or woman is either a liar, a slut or crazy. Here is a great article on this: He Said, She Said: The Mythical History of the False Rape Allegation
thinking women are “ASKING FOR IT”! This idea is ridiculously flawed and contradictory. If in fact “we” are asking for it, then this would mean we were asking for consensual sex or we invited a person to comment on how we look or behave. There is no clothing, age, background, ethnicity, disability or behaviour which lends to the idea “we” are “ASKING FOR IT”.
allowing predators to suggest that by having none consensual sex with an individual is doing them a favour as they are deemed not aesthetically conventional in their appearance or are disabled. Beauty and rape have no ties and cause this false idea that you can be too ugly to be raped. I was told this once by a horrible misogynist, who suggested I was too fat and ugly for rape victim. Disabled people are more likely to be taken advantage of as again I know too well. The same can be said about claiming that “you brought them into adulthood”, which is often used as a defence when women rape minors, especially if adolescent. Reinforced by a culture that will pat the boy on the back, for being taken advantage of by an older woman – but one that would react very differently to a girl who is under age, with an older man.
Thinking rape is about sex and sex alone. Rape is taking control of someone’s body and autonomy by force. It is not simply a person gets so overwhelmed by desire and can’t control themselves, it is so much more complicated and is never simply explained.
Promoting the “scorned woman” narrative, that women and girls get so enraged about being rejected by a man that their little minds overheat and conjure up allegations of rape and abuse for shits and giggles. This is a stereotype of women which has been depicted through history in all manner of literature and now film and TV. The fact that it is so widely believed is proof when you hear women accusing one another of such things. When research shows men are more likely to commit a violent crime after rejection in an intimate relationship. Please read this article: These 14 Women Were Brutally Attacked for Rejecting Men — Why Aren’t We Talking About It?
We need to look at rape as… well just that – RAPE!
People need to understand the fundamental differences between rape and sex and the need for children to be taught about consent couldn’t be more evident, along with the rest of sex education needing to be taught younger and more liberally. But how can you make a difference, simple check your attitudes and beliefs about what you have read and ask yourself:
Have you ever reinforced the rape myth?
If you are a victim who survived sexual violence, rape assault or abuse and wish to get more advice or support here are some helpful links:
It is as if I have always been part of #LinkYourLife, it is a community – a home away from home. Upon waking each day I log in and visit my fellow link your lifer’s in our virtual world, where we open ourselves up in all our differing ways. With almost every subject you can imagine being woven into words and art, so that we can share ourselves in our most vulnerable and honest of ways.
Link your life has changed me as a writer, an artist and as a survivor.
As a writer:
Even though I have always enjoyed writing and have done so since being very young – keeping feelings diaries and having done creative writing therapy, I was never “a writer” but after lots of consideration to what I wished to do with my life and especially putting my education to good use, eventually deciding to add a year to my degree and change my direction slightly, having already completed my Philosophy and Psychology portions I still needed 120 credits to get my honours, so I decided to do creative writing, which I am now about to start my final year in.
Link your life came about during my first year of creative writing at university and allowed me to connect with fellow writers of all walks of life and credentials, which is the way I like it – as I do not believe a writers abilities are due to education, it is something within, but having a variation in any way is always better when in a community. Being part of this alliance of creatives was exactly what was needed to boost my confidence when sharing my written works. It was like an extra curricular group – an extension to my studies and very much helped me in finding my voice.
As an artist:
When I first started being a professional artist (in 2010) I fell quickly into the trap of “what art will sell best” kind of mentality which is for some, like myself – stifling. If you are not a commercial artist the art world seems closed to you if your art is not comparable to those in home department stores; people want generic art for generic places, things which look pretty and decorative. There is nothing wrong with this and it has a rightful place, however I am an outsider artist who fell into the commercial trap. So I hid behind flowers, landscapes, cityscapes and beautiful women – if you looked closer you could see my truth, but I was afraid it would be too honest for some so kept it back. The need to get uglier, darker even was a personal struggle for me as an artist – as my truth was not all flowers and beauty, it was much murkier than this and I knew it had a place but I couldn’t trust this until becoming a member of Link Your Life as my rawness had not come out yet – until opening up within my writing. The two are entwined – I paint with words; I create dialogue with visual art.
As a survivor:
The most significant consequence to being a member of Link Your Life is that it prompted me to do something which needed to be done for such a long time, it opened me up in a way that allowed me to vocalise my story of being a victim of child sexual abuse, rape and sexual violence and had survived this trauma. Before Link You Life I was not even able to write the word RAPE, it was so ugly and triggering that I was trapped in my communication and recovery. There are still words I can not articulate about my abuse and rape however the weight of shame is less when discussing this. Shawna and Shareen have both allowed me to feel safe in sharing as they have also done, sometimes you need to be guided by those who have suffered as you have, as they truly understand the impact this kind of sharing has on yourself and others. Even though I am in the grips of illness due to these things which have happened to me, the relief to be surrounded by such brave survivors who allow for such truth sharing is the most rewarding of gifts that Link You Life has given me, I am forever grateful for this.
This post is in honour of Shareen and her birthday xxx
This piece of art is a visual representation of what it is like to live and suffer with complex post traumatic stress disorder.
Since childhood I have been repeatedly subjected to trauma, which went on into my adolescent years and then further into my adult years. As an toddler I was sexually abused by a family member, my Father suffered from alcohol induced psychosis and begun to act threatening and was a risk to myself and my Mother.
My Mother psychologically manipulated me from then until present day – through gaslighting, with emotional and narcissistic abuse. Abandoned on numerous occasions by both parents, with my Father abandoning me completely by early puberty, and my Mother leaving me to fend for myself whist she was in hospital, at the age of 12 (with only an 18 year old lodger to look in on me, who was not well themselves).
Then at 15 I experienced a violent rape by a boy in my school, causing me to have internal surgery and being put into a psychiatric hospital, where I was sexually assaulted a further 2 times by male inpatients. Abandoned once more by my Mother – whist in hospital experiencing one of the worst ordeals of my life. After leaving hospital the abuse from my mother continued, until leaving home at 17, from 17 until 26 drugs took over my life and whether illegal or prescribed a haze of denial took hold and saw reckless or complete social isolation as the two extremes I swung between.
Then at 26, upon seeing my rapist face to face I suffered a breakdown and have not fully regained control of my life since. With chronic illnesses and disabilities setting in from 28 onward, further isolation has occurred. The emotional captivity my Mother had me in was finally broken by myself last year (2015) when she asked to “have a break” as my dependency on her for help with my illnesses was too much for her, this – coming from a woman who used me as a care giver rather than raising me as a child, (as she suffers from co-morbid bipolar and BPD).
All the while stigmatised, marginalised and disenfranchised by teachers, doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, employers and the higher education system, pushing me further down with no civil rights or options. This is how I developed C-PTSD. This is a short description – an outline of events, rather than the detail of all the encompassing experiences which led to this disorder.
Here is some information on C-PTSD:
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), also known as complex trauma, is a proposed diagnostic term for a set of symptoms resulting from prolonged stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature, especially in the context of interpersonal dependence. Subjects displaying traits associated with C-PTSD include victims of chronic maltreatment by caregivers, as well as hostages, prisoners of war, concentration camp survivors, and survivors of some religious cults.
Situations causing the kind of traumatic stress that can lead to C-PTSD-like symptoms include captivity or entrapment (a situation lacking a viable escape route for the victim), as well as psychological manipulation (gaslighting and/or false accusations), which can result in a prolonged sense of helplessness and deformation of one’s identity and sense of self. C-PTSD is distinct from, but similar to, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), somatization disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
Repeated traumatization during childhood leads to symptoms that differ from those described for PTSD. Here are symptoms and behavioural characteristics in seven domains:
Attachment – “problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to other’s emotional states, and lack of empathy” Biology – “sensory-motor developmental dysfunction, sensory-integration difficulties, somatization, and increased medical problems” Affect or emotional regulation – “poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes” Dissociation – “amnesia, depersonalization, discrete states of consciousness with discrete memories, affect, and functioning, and impaired memory for state-based events” Behavioural control – “problems with impulse control, aggression, pathological self-soothing, and sleep problems” Cognition – “difficulty regulating attention, problems with a variety of “executive functions” such as planning, judgement, initiation, use of materials, and self-monitoring, difficulty processing new information, difficulty focusing and completing tasks, poor object constancy, problems with “cause-effect” thinking, and language developmental problems such as a gap between receptive and expressive communication abilities.” Self-concept – “fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self”.
Seeking increased attachment to people, especially to care-givers who inflict pain, confuses love and pain and increases the likelihood of a captivity like that of betrayal bonding, (similar to Stockholm syndrome) and of disempowerment and lack of control. If the situation is perceived as life-threatening then traumatic stress responses will likely arise and C-PTSD more likely diagnosed in a situation of insecure attachment than PTSD.
Cook, A., et. al.,(2005) Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents,Psychiatric Annals, 35:5, pp-398
Lewis Herman, Judith (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Basic Books.
Open Thought Vortex is happy to announce Charlotte Farhan as our Artist-in-Residence for the summer of 2016. Charlotte is internationally recognized as an artistic ally. She runs the non-profit Art Saves Lives International Magazine which seeks out and promotes artists whose work raises awareness for such topics as mental health, domestic violence and survival.
Charlotte works tirelessly to expose the underbelly of the ableist hierarchy both through ASLI and through her own art which chronicles her survival of abuse and assault. Like our previous OTV Artist-in-Residence Aaminah Shakur, Charlotte’s art is expressed through multiple mediums. Her path to wellness is paved with paintings and her writing and art have opened doors for hundreds of others worldwide to speak up about their own survival.
We are very proud to have Charlotte as a member of the OTV team. We look forward to showcasing her talent and collaborating with her on projects that serve the overlapping missions of Open Thought Vortex and Art Saves Lives International.
A pressure builds inside my head like a boiling liquid,
spilling out of me, the security lock has been breached.
The fear that anything could escape – this is unscripted,
witnessing my life – my credibility is impeached.
As I get older the locked safe where my darkest thoughts and memories have been kept, since being very young; has started to erode with time. Rusty and old, the hinges are no longer able to hold it all in.
Since starting reliving therapy in 2014 there have been many disturbances to my treatment, such as the NHS only being able to offer 6 weeks and then leaving me worse than before, opened up and dumped.
Then last year I found a therapist which was able to offer a reduced fee (as we are on such a low income) all was going well, even though it was soul-destroying and painful and made me cry in those 6 sessions more than I ever had. Still it was a process and felt as if maybe I would be able to deal with the trauma of my rape and sexual abuse as well as all the other issues which had developed as a consequence. However this was not to be the case, due to my borderline personality disorder I ended up splitting my therapist in my mind and however much I tried, this could not be changed. From thinking “she is my saviour” to “she is trying to kill me”, which then led me to become dangerously suicidal. So having no real choice, the therapeutic relationship had to be terminated.
So I am left unlocked and wide open…
If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.