“The first principle of recovery is empowerment of the survivor. Many benevolent and well-intentioned attempts to assist the survivor flounder because this basic principle of empowerment is not observed. No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in his or her immediate best interest”.
Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery
We exist to untap the expertise of people affected by abuse in order to change society’s response to trauma.
Survivors Voices is a small, national peer-led organisation run by and for adult survivors of abuse and inter-personal trauma* and those who support them. The power of turning our traumatic experiences into something that creates good in the world is central to our existence. We seek individuals, organisations and professional training bodies who will work collaboratively with us, hear us, learn from our expertise and stand alongside us as we seek to transform society’s response to abuse and trauma. If you share our vision, please get in touch.
We aim to carry out our vision…
…by gathering people with experience of abuse, and their supporters/allies, in order to listen, share and understand. We do this through our bi-annual peer-support gatherings, our online forum, our mailings, networking and other events.
…by untapping the expertise of survivors to understand what is wrong and how things can be better in how society responds to the trauma of abuse. We do this through unique, survivor-led and co-produced research (eg. with universities, professional groups) leading to development of good practice guidelines, standards, training materials, articles, papers and publications.
…by championing the expertise of survivors in order to foster survivor-safe-survivor-sensitive-survivor-empowering environments and trauma-aware-trauma-competent practices. We do this through setting standards for good practice in a variety of settings; providing training & consultancy for professionals & communities; disseminating information on abuse & how to engage, work with and support survivors; and by encouraging safe, enlightened self-help, peer support and creative responses by and for survivors.
At Survivors’ Voices, we talk about our need for survivor-safe-survivor-sensitive-survivor-empowering environments and trauma-aware-trauma-competent practices. The need for change is not only urgent (too many of us are experiencing the opposite), it is also universal across every area of life – from our medical and social care systems; our clinical and therapeutic practices; our legal, educational and workplace processes and environments; to the way we respond to abuse survivors in our midst as communities, cultural, sporting and religious institutions, right through to the interpersonal responses of friends, families and colleagues. From our nearly two decades of conversations with adult survivors, we can say with certainty that the experience at all these different levels is often one of incompetence, denial, being shut down, turned away from, blamed, pathologised and disempowered – trauma piled upon trauma. We ALL have much work to do to foster survivor-safe-survivor-sensitive-survivor-empowering environments in our organisations and in our communities and to develop trauma-aware-trauma-competent practices within professional helping relationships. What is your part to play?
* A note on terminology
We understand that different forms of abuse can all have a deep and long-lasting effect on us as children and adults and that harmful experience can include profound neglect, particularly in early years; bullying; emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuses; ritualised and organised abuse; having to observe violence and live under coercive control. These experiences can occur in a variety of social settings including families, schools and communities and can be broader such as experiences of war, human trafficking, political violence and oppression. We recognise that both individual incidents and prolonged exposure to abusive and/or self-negating environments can cause profound trauma, particularly when such experiences occur within significant relationships. We do not believe there is a ‘hierarchy of abuse’ with regards to the impact it can have on individuals as this will vary from person to person depending on the severity of the trauma, the attachment to the perpetrator(s), the vulnerability and resources of the person experiencing it and the ability of the society around the person to acknowledge and respond to the trauma appropriately and with support.
The term ‘survivor’ developed to signify people moving away from being passive ‘victims’ of abuse to overcomers of their experiences. We follow common practice and use it as a shorthand for people who have experienced abuse and interpersonal trauma whilst recognising that many people with such experiences have either not heard of the term survivor or may not want to describe themselves as having been ‘abused’ or being a ‘survivor’ for many complex and valid reasons. As such, we will often interchange the term ‘survivor’ with ‘people who have experienced abuse or interpersonal trauma’.
Our organisation, (formerly known as S:VOX: Survivors Voices), is a project of parent company Reshapers Community Interest Company, a not-for-profit social enterprise. We have nearly two decades of experience running survivor-led activities including self-help groups, residential weekends, creative expression events, researching and producing materials, sitting on advisory panels, running training for professionals and survivors and providing informal advocacy on reporting abuse (see Our History).