Arts as a platform for change

Posted on the 1st June 2018

When I found myself at a life-changing crossroads after escaping the clutches of a very dangerous relationship, I immediately knew that I wanted to do something to help those still suffering. Volunteering always seemed the obvious way to give from the heart, especially as I had no financial security, but I had three young children (one just months old) and wanted to give back in a more creative way. I came up with a plan to use the arts as a platform to open dialogue, using interactive art pieces (like a huge 1968 classic car smashed during my relationship) to make it easier for anyone regardless of background or ability to get involved with the topic.

It takes a lot of energy to stand up all day – often without a break – and to talk about hard things like physical, sexual and emotional abuse to an endless queue of strangers. I do it frequently, revisiting my experience repeatedly to educate and help others because it adds a sense of positivity to what was otherwise a very negative, traumatic and life-impacting experience.

I firmly believe in giving back to others when you yourself have been helped to survive something horrendous and can see that many people out there are still in the same boat and in desperate need.

It still amazes me how generous other people are with offering their time to come and volunteer alongside me, especially for something that they themselves have not poured their heart and soul into developing. It has to be said, though, that all the people who have come forward to stand with me for hours interacting with the public all have some personal reason close to home that has inspired them to do so. In my mind, it just goes to show that out of hardship and challenges can come some wonderful solidarity – not to mention the zest to fight for people’s rights and justice.

A photograph shows a woman wearing a t shirt with the hashtag do i look like a victim and a text box that reads 'domestic abuse impacts one in 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men' alongside the Arts Against Abuse logo.

I recently launched a t-shirt/poster campaign, depicting people from all walks of life wearing the hashtag #doilooklikeavictim, the point being we are all victims directly or indirectly and could all fall victim to domestic abuse regardless of age, race, religion, sexuality, gender or social status. Many people contacted me through social media wanting to take part, but I also approached people who I felt would resonate with, and reflect, the wider community. I was asking these people to give their time but also their face to a campaign purely in support of the cause and, despite getting a few no’s, the vast majority of people took time out of their lives to make it happen. It is people like these, willing to cast aside judgement because they believe in helping others and being part of a movement for a greater good, that gives me faith in humanity in a world so often full of negativity.

A photograph shows a man wearing a t shirt with the hashtag do i look like a victim and a text box that reads 'domestic abuse impacts one in 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men' alongside the Arts Against Abuse logo.

Imogen Paton

Imogen is an artist and the founder of Arts Against Abuse, an entirely voluntary-led organisation. She has been the director since November 2015.

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