This striking graphic novel, published by Singing Dragon, gives an insider's view of the trauma caused by childhood sexual exploitation. It tackles complex issues, including victim-blaming, traumatic memory and dissociation, but is ultimately hopeful, showing how victims can be good parents and come to terms with their past through therapy, art and caring relationships.
Art, narrative and connection. T O Walker shares her thoughts with us on how she created ‘Not my shame’.
A few years ago I read a quote in a newspaper that made me feel like my world was being torn apart. The article was about Rochdale grooming gangs and related to part of my life I thought I had moved on from, a part of my life I kept separate from my current life. My current life was happy with a fabulous partner, a wonderful young child, great friends and a good job working in mental health. I was completely focused on my current life until I read that article and then suddenly all I could think about were past experiences of trauma and I felt really disconnected from my current life.
I spent some time really struggling until I rediscovered drawing and painting. I began by creating paintings which expressed anger and horror at other people’s experiences of sexual violence and then moved on to painting my own experiences and relating my feelings to my own experience. I spent over a year doing this and found that creating this space for feelings from the past enabled me to reconnect with my current life.
The pictures I created from this time became the first draft of my book ‘Not my shame’. When I reflected on the first draft I could see that it was an expression of distress and a testimony to my traumatic experiences but I could also see that it was not all of me so I added in lots of good bits from my current life, my partner, my child, my friends, my work, and I ended up with a book that represented all of me that was important at the time I created it. It felt really powerful to have so many different aspects of my experience and identity all represented and connected in a single piece of work.
The next step was to share this book with other people and to look them in the eye, to be clear that it's ok for me to be all of myself and that my history doesn’t negate my present or vice versa. I don’t know how to describe this experience other than to say it felt completely liberating and it was at this point I came up with the name for the book.
I hope when you read it you can see it is a story of hope and the power of creativity as well as being an insight into the impact of traumatic experiences.
'Not My Shame' - the reviews
'It is so important to hear the voices of the many survivors who are beginning, in recent times, to make artistic work about their experiences. I hope there will come a time when we will look back at this period and see how it changed attitudes towards sexual violence and victim blaming. Not My Shame is an honest account of the after effects of rape on the individual. It looks difficult themes straight in the eye with a combination of evocative images and text, taking the reader along on a survivor's journey through trauma.' - Una, author of 'Becoming Unbecoming'
'This is a brave book that offers real insight into sexual exploitation. Told from the perspective of a woman who survived it, this beautifully drawn book powerfully illuminates the terror, blame and shame that traps victims in sexually exploitative relationships they do not want, but cannot leave. It offers hope, juxtaposing the psychological hurt that is carried into adulthood with the joy - and challenges - of parenting a child. Policy makers, professionals, carers and survivors will all gain from reading this book.' - Dr Sam Warner, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Honorary Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Salford University
'This powerful graphic story is important in showing how victimisation and sexual abuse destroy hope and prevent the fulfilment of the most basic human needs. It exposes the rape culture and victim-blaming that seems endemic in the media and the professionals who misread and misunderstand the power structures in play. It is, in itself, a cry of hope; this story, most likely played out in many lives, needs to be told.' - Ian Williams, Cartoonist, Doctor and Founder of GraphicMedicine.org
'Here is an invitation to engage with a story of explosive power: a raw yet nuanced depiction of childhood sexual exploitation; service responses and failures; and the challenge of living with the impact of trauma. Fury is the flipside of love; and this book is furious and loving in equal measures. It will touch, challenge and change those who read it. Read it. Whatever brings you to it, you'll be struck not just its uncompromising depiction of darkness, but by the redemptive light that it shines.' - Clare Shaw, author, Royal Literary Fellow and co-editor of 'Our Encounters with Self-Harm' (PCCS, 2013)
‘Not my shame’ was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in December 2016 and is Priced at 8.99. It can be purchased here