The importance of safe spaces and how to understand them better – Link You Life

Safe Space - By Charlotte Farhan
Safe Space – By Charlotte Farhan

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.

Safe Place - by Charlotte Farhan
Safe Place – by Charlotte Farhan

 


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Link your life has changed me as a writer, an artist and as a survivor.

Link your life

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.

This place would not exist if it were not for the forever giving and talented Shawna Ayoub Ainslie and Shareen Mansfield who together have opened their lives to allow us to share ours.

 

Link your life has changed me as a writer, an artist and as a survivor.

 

Link you life

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

shareen-birthday by charlotte farhan

Poetry and Art Spotlight: Red – By Charlotte Farhan

Red - Art By - Charlotte Farhan
Red – Art By – Charlotte Farhan

 

RED

by Charlotte Farhan 

A survivor is created through their suffering – not born,

overwhelming need for endurance becomes everything,

red drips – glistening droplets cascading down a single thorn,

petals fall like tears as the red roses are left weeping.

 

Asking for forgiveness from the powers that be,

Rising tall after the holy wreckage,

Seeing nothing but red; left lost with nobody,

from the crimson glow among the breakage,

 

Reaching for that apple; fruit of the poisonous tree

Breaking into pieces, scattering across the earth

red glass cuts; amidst the shards appears a master key

Could this be the moment of sweet release; my rebirth.

 

Being black and blue is nothing new,

the red remains; staining my legs,

however my strength was a breakthrough,

even if the darkness still begs.

 

Purity was ruined by them; they burnt me alive,

breathing is a battle; existing is trying,

nonetheless if in this redness; I can survive,

then a warrioress can break from within; crying.

 

Strength comes from doing whatever you can to stay alive,

crossing that red stop sign can be necessary,

blood alerts us, poppies sooth us, Red Riding Hood reminds us,

warning to all; survival is cautionary.

 

So when you see me and think this is madness,

remember that red is around us and pumps through our veins,

danger is present; a part of the darkness,

however survival comes from this and strength remains.


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