‘Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing’ — Confronting Childhood Sexual Abuse in the United Kingdom

ANBU UK — Abuse Never Becomes Us — is a charity supporting survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) in the Tamil community and they will be hosting their “Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing” event on 17 November in Farringdon, London. The organisation are a survivor-led organisation with survivor supporters making up the team. 

 

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The ANBU movement started off in Canada back in March 2016 and has since grown from strength to strength with the UK branch established a year now with the belief that childhood sexual abuse should never be normalised, trivialised or kept a secret.

By spreading awareness of childhood sexual abuse and its impact on child and adulthood through outreach and workshops in the community, ANBU UK reaches out and connects with all levels of the community. In doing so, they believe this will facilitate individual and social transformations in the community to bring about lasting change to eliminate harmful practices and oppressive mindsets.

[Read Related: What Stops South Asians From Discussing Mental Health?]

They have held around 12 outreach sessions so far, including a special parent and adolescent workshop, child safeguarding focussed sessions with parents, healthy relationship workshops with university Tamil societies and two large-scale events. They have also developed ANBU short support videos and are in the middle of planning more formalised survivor support in the near future including a helpline. So why now? U.K. lead Vanajah Srinivasan tells us, 

My older sister was abused by a relative who lived in our family home for over 10 years. The complex voiceless trauma of sexual abuse was completely unbeknown to younger siblings (including me), who for the most part experienced a very different, relatively happy childhood. Without a doubt, the courage, strength and fortitude my sister displayed from the time leading up to court proceedings will forever resonate with me. My sister reported the abuse to the police and testified in court in front of the perpetrator, whilst continuing to be an attentive mother to her own children.

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It is a shame I cannot speak about a supportive Tamil community as sexual abuse is a still very much a taboo topic. The lack of understanding regarding childhood sexual abuse and traditional views of a patriarchal honour based community, unfortunately, favours the concept of remaining silent and demonising any calls for justice. It was particularly difficult to stomach the phone calls we received following my sisters’ statements asking my parents to negotiate a shorter jail term for the perpetrator. It appeared that his actions were deemed serious enough by the UK legal system but not so within the Tamil community.

ANBU UK held an event in May called “Tamil Male in Contemporary Society,” a chance collaboration with SurvivorsUK, a charity that supports male rape and sexual abuse survivors. The evening explored Tamil male identity and the impact of trauma and abuse with males and the first of its kind. 

[Read Related: Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Breaking Free from Generations of Abuse]

The upcoming event, “Aint nothing but a She thing,” aims to focus more on the context of trauma, violence and sexual abuse and its impact on females, inter-sectioning with the Tamil identity. The evening will consist of creative performances, group interaction, art installations, and a panel discussion with survivors. As with all ANBU events, it will be a safe and inclusive space to explore experiences, unpacking societal and cultural constructs that can impact the lives of Tamil and South Asian females in the context of trauma, violence and sexual abuse. 
Srinivasan adds,

The world is changing at such a fast pace, when the Jimmy Saville case came out in the UK, there was an outpouring of people breaking the silence, speaking out and disclosing for the first time about abuse (And I know, I was working on the NAPAC helplines around that time!). And now with the #MeToo movement, there has never been a better a moment to show solidarity, strength and collective action when we stand together, adding voices to the many. Unfortunately, especially from a South Asian perspective, we’re operating from social norms that do not support progressive mindsets, which means there it will take more time to bring about change, but not impossible!

Tickets for the “Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing” can be purchased here

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