What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape: An exclusive author conversation with Sohaila Abdulali and Winnie M Li

On Monday 8th July, we’ll be joined at Waterstones Tottenham Court Roadby Sohaila Abdulali, author of international bestseller What We Talk About When We talk About Rape. Sohaila will be visiting us all the way from New York!

In the 1980s, Sohaila was the first Indian rape survivor to speak out in the media about her experience. Gang-raped as a teenager in Mumbai and indignant at the deafening silence on the issue in India, she wrote an article for a women’s magazine questioning how we perceive rape and rape victims. Thirty years later, she saw the story go viral in the wake of the fatal 2012 Delhi rape and the global outcry that followed. 

Drawing on three decades of grappling with the issue personally and professionally, and on her work with hundreds of other survivors, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape explores consent, desire, redemption, revenge and how rape is and should be discussed by society.  Sohaila also explores what we don’t say, and asks pertinent questions about who gets raped and who rapes, about consent and desire, about redemption and revenge, and about how we raise our sons. Most importantly, she asks: does rape always have to be a life-defining event, or is it possible to recover joy?  

Sohaila will be joined in conversation by Clear Lines Co-Founder Winnie M Li, who chose to write fiction to address her real-life stranger rape in her debut Dark Chapter.  It won The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize and has been translated into ten languages. She has an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in recognition of her writing and activism.

Together, Sohaila and Winnie will discuss the choices they’ve made both as writers and as survivors in order to prompt a more productive public conversation about rape and sexual assault. 

Monday 8 July
7pm
Waterstones Tottenham Court Road
19-21 Tottenham Court Road
London
W1T 1BJ


Ticket £7
Book and ticket £12
CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR TICKETS NOW!

We’re coming to Liverpool on the 20th May!

We’re so excited to launch our first events out of London this May in collaboration with WoWFEST

A literary evening of discussion with Winnie M Li and Clare Shaw


A lively, honest discussion with our Co-Founder Winnie M Li and the unforgettable Clare Shaw, whose award-winning writing, drawn from their own experiences, addresses sexual violence and consent.  Through the very different mediums of poetry and fiction, Clare and Winnie use language to capture the human truths behind sexual trauma, and challenge the injustice of gender-based violence.  They’ll be in conversation with Gill Moglione MBE, Vice Chair of The Women’s Organisation, who has spent 30 years working with domestic and sexual abuse survivors. 

Monday, 20 May, 6:30pm (Doors at 6pm). You can read more and get your tickets (£4/2) here.

Join us in Liverpool for a lively, honest discussion with our Co-Founder Winnie M Li and the unforgettable Clare Shaw,

Workshops for writing lived experience

Earlier in the afternoon of Monday 20th May, we’re also collaborating with WoWFEST to hold two exclusive creative writing workshops addressing lived experiences of sexual trauma. Join Winnie and Clare at this event as they lead these safe spaces, using poetry (Clare) and prose (Winnie) to explore difficult and personal stories.

These workshops are limited in number, and only to individuals affected by sexual trauma. No prior writing experience necessary. 

Sign up by emailing info@writingonthewall.org.uk. Remember to bring £2 with you on the day!

Join us for ‘Even When I Fall’ Q&A screening with the filmmakers, Wednesday 20th March

‘We felt the more rarely told story is about the aftermath of trafficking in a survivor’s life, and the barriers to surviving it with dignity.’ — Sky Neal and Kate McLarnon

Sheetal and Saraswoti met as teenagers in a Kathmandu refuge, survivors of child trafficking to corrupt Indian circuses and brought back across the border to a Nepal they could barely remember.

EVEN WHEN I FALL‘ traces their journey over 6 years as they confront the families that sold them, seek acceptance within their own country and begin to build a future. They struggle against the odds and without education, but inadvertently these girls were left with a secret weapon by their captors – their breath-taking skills as circus artists. With 11 other young trafficking survivors, Sheetal and Saraswoti form Circus Kathmandu – Nepal’s first and only circus.

An intimate, beautiful film that harnesses the visual power of circus to give a unique perspective into the complex world of human trafficking.

Join us for a special screening of this critically acclaimed documentary, followed by a Q&A discussion with the filmmakers and ethnographers Sky New and Kate McLarnon, and LSE academics from the Departments of Media and Communications, and the Department of Gender Studies.

This series of events is dedicated to exploring how the media represents different forms of gender-based violence, and the kind of ‘voice’ given to survivors.  They are also designed to provide a fruitful dialogue between those with lived experience, those who represent that experience, and those who study these media representations. Concepts explored will include voice, audience, the public sphere, agency, and recovery from trauma. 

The event will be followed by a reception, providing a space for survivors, frontline workers, journalists, advocates, academics, and the public to build useful connections.  This event is free and open to the public.  Attendance is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so do arrive early to ensure yourself a seat. 

Even When I Fall’ Q&A screening with the filmmakers  – Wednesday, 20th March

6:30 – 8.30pm, followed by a reception

The London School of Economics

Thai Theatre

New Academic Building (NAB)54 Lincolns Inn Fields, WC2A 3LJ

Save the Date: Media Representations of Domestic Violence – Thursday Feb 7th

How is domestic violence portrayed in the mainstream media?  Is it represented as a crime primarily affecting the disenfranchised – for example, the working classes or ethnic communities?  How does this representation create a power dynamic and the potential for exploitation between media practitioners and survivors with lived experience of domestic violence? 

These and other important questions will be discussed at this collaborative event with the Department of Media and Communications and the Gender Department at LSE, in association with On Road Media and Clear Lines. 

Introducing our speakers

Our confirmed speakers will be: Penny East (Survivor and Head of Communications, SafeLives), Nathalie McDermott (Founder, On Road Media), and Zing Tsjeng (Broadly Editor, Vice Media).  Dr. Sadie Wearing from the Gender Dept will chair.

Penny East, Survivor and Head of Communications, SafeLives

Penny is Head of Communication at SafeLives, a national domestic abuse charity. Penny was motivated to join SafeLives after experiencing an abusive and controlling relationship in her twenties. She now works to raise awareness of the issue but also the challenges faced by survivors in being heard, understood and supported. She works with the media on a regular basis, on survivor stories, data and the urgent need to change the public conversation around abuse. Penny was a Fellow on the Clore Social Leadership Programme 2017 and specialised in gender equality. She is a keen writer and recently wrote about her experience for the New Statesman. Before joining SafeLives, she worked for charities such as Comic Relief. 

Nathalie McDermott, Founder and Chief Executive, On Road Media

Nathalie is a former broadcast journalist, and worked at the BBC, Guardian and Media for Development where she set up the Prison Radio Outreach Project in Wandsworth Prison. In 2008 she founded On Road Media, a charity that improves media coverage of communities that are misrepresented and misunderstood. They connect journalists with people with lived experience of social issues to inspire new storylines in soaps, TV dramas, factual and comedy, as well as improving news coverage. They support activists to do this work safely and with agency, including practising self-care, building confidence through peer support, and learning strategic communication techniques when choosing which parts of a personal story to tell, when and why for maximum impact.

Nathalie oversees Angles: A Different Take on Sexual and Domestic Abuse (New Radicals 2018 winner) and award-winning All About Trans, which have both leveraged over £6 million in positive British programming in the media.

Zing Tsjeng, UK Editor of Broadly at Vice Media

Zing Tsjeng is the UK editor of Broadly, VICE’s channel for millennial women. She has written about feminism, arts and culture, politics, race and LGBTQ identity for publications like the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Dazed, i-D magazine and The Debrief. Zing is also a presenter for VICE, and her most recent documentary (Britain First vs Antifascists vs Police) attracted 1.5 million views on Facebook.

Zing is a keen speaker and panelist, and has appeared on BBC Woman’s Hour and moderated live events at the BFI, SXSW, Web Summit and HowTheLightGetsIn festival. In 2017 she was nominated for the Pride Power List, which celebrates the achievements of influential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Zing is the author of the feminist series, Forgotten Women, published by Octopus. Most recently Broadly’s team launched the #UnfollowMe anti-stalking campaign in partnership with Paladin Charity highlighting the need to change our approach to stalking and update the law. Follow Zing on Twitter.

Chair: Dr. Sadie Wearing, Dept of Gender Studies 

Sadie Wearing’s research and teaching interests are in the critical analysis of literary, visual and media culture with specific interest in representations of aging, temporality and memory in both historical and contemporary contexts. Her work is concerned with questions of the political implications of deployments of cultural understandings of time, memory and the body. Specifically she examines the ways in which literary and cinematic narratives articulate contested cultural processes including questions of public and private memory, national identity, heritage and belongings, gender sexuality and aging. She has written on the questions raised by adaptations of literary and biographical texts and the specificity of cinematic forms of memory and forgetting, and at how these might be understood in relation to postcolonial theory, postfeminism and contemporary formations of celebrity.

Sadie’s recent work examines the ways in which cinema, literature and popular culture reflect and complicate wider cultural assumptions about aging, memory and temporality, and the complexity of the ways in which aging subjectivities, constructions and embodiments are produced and reproduced.

Event details

This series of events is dedicated to exploring how the media represents different forms of gender-based violence, and the kind of ‘voice’ given to survivors.  They are also designed to provide a fruitful dialogue between those with lived experience, those who represent that experience, and those who study these media representations. Concepts explored will include voice, audience, the public sphere, agency, and recovery from trauma. Keep an eye out for our next event in the series too. On Wednesday March 20th, we’ll be hosting a special screening of the critically acclaimed documentary Even When I Fall, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Our 7th Febuary event will be followed by a reception, providing a space for survivors, frontline workers, journalists, advocates, academics, and the public to build useful connections.  This event is free and open to the public.  Attendance is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so do arrive early to ensure yourself a seat. 

Media Representations of Domestic Violence, Thursday Feb 7th

6.30-8pm

The London School of Economics

Thai Theatre

New Academic Building (NAB)

54 Lincolns Inn Fields

WC2A 3LJ

Our November Event at Waterstones: A Word with the Authors

UPDATE: We’re thrilled to announce our final event of 2018 is now sold out!  Thanks to all of you who booked up 100 tickets to our special literary evening tomorrow, Thursday 29th November.  This means Waterstones Gower Street is going to be packed with lots of passionate people, not to mention our line-up of award-winning authors, as we discuss writing trauma, recovery and gender-based violence. (If you are desperate to go, you can try turning up on the evening in case there are no-shows, but sadly, no promises.)

On Thursday, November 29, seven award-winning authors from around the UK will speak at our next Clear Lines event: Writing About Trauma, Recovery, and Gender-Based Violence.  It’s a difficult topic, but a necessary one — both for the writers themselves (many of them writing from personal experience) and for the audience, who will be coming to Waterstones Gower Street in Central London for this unique literary evening.

Working across a range of fiction, poetry, and memoir to capture the human truths behind sexual trauma, these authors will take part in a lively, honest discussion about the ethical questions, the challenges, and the rewards of addressing these topics through literature. The event commemorates UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, taking place 25 November-10 December.

While in the past year #MeToo and #TimesUp filled news headlines, many of us know that sexual assault and abuse are not anything new. Survivors have lived with the legacy of these traumas over the course of decades and lifetimes.

Poet and writer Clare Best says: ‘It took me more than fifteen years to write The Missing List and in a sense I’ve been writing this book all my life, since I was abused by my father from the age of seven.’ Her memoir, a finalist in the Mslexia Memoir Competition 2015 came out with Linen Press in September 2018.  She continues: ‘I’m driven by wanting to help create a space in which people can talk, ask questions, split taboos wide open. And I want to model the healing power of creativity – crafting The Missing List might have saved my life.’ 

Similarly, novelist Louise Beech says: ‘My writing has always been my therapy, my way of trying to access buried memories and cope, so if talking about it helps me or anyone else, then that is powerful stuff.’ Maria in the Moon is Louise’s third novel (she has since written two more), and The Irish Times calls it ‘a stirring novel, beautifully written.’

Clare and Louise will speak on the evening’s second panel with Madeleine Black, a survivor of a teenage gang rape who recounts her lifelong process of recovery in her memoir Unbroken. A spokeswoman for The Forgiveness Project, Madeleine will be coming from Glasgow for the event. That panel will be chaired by writer, survivor, and longtime Clear Lines collaborator Tanaka Mhishi, whose spoken word poetry was featured on BBC Three.

Broadly, the second panel of the evening addresses violence by a perpetrator known to the victim or within the family — while the first panel addresses the classic narrative of the dangerous stranger ‘out there.’ But how can survivors and writers subvert that traditional narrative?

Drawing from her own violent trauma as a teenager, Yorkshire-based poet Clare Shaw has long explored the polemical power of literature across her three award-winning collections. She writes: ‘Words have the power to harm and help us, and a powerful language can transform us as individuals, communities, and societies.’

Likewise, Clear Lines Co-Founder Winnie M Li transformed her real-life stranger rape into her debut Dark Chapter, a fictional reimagining of the crime and aftermath from both victim and perpetrator perspectives.  Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker Award 2017, it was also shortlisted for the Best First Novel Award and the prestigious Edgar Award in the US for crime fiction. 

Abigail Tarttelin’s third novel Dead Girls is similarly labeled ‘a feminist crime thriller,’ which places at its centre a young female protagonist determined to find the killer of her friend — and of other victims.  Tarttelin writes: ‘May we teach girls not to be obedient, digestible, and decorative, but to fight with teeth and mind and fists; to see themselves as potential victors, and not ineluctable victims.’  In fact, this re-writing of victims as survivors and protagonists very much fuels all these authors’ work. Join us for an unforgettable evening on Nov 29th.

Writing About Trauma, Recovery, and Gender-Based Violence: A Clear Lines Event
Waterstones, 82 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6EQ

Thursday 29th November, 2018
6.30 – 8:30 pm

Books by the authors will be available for purchase and signing.

The importance of safe spaces in the club scene: Clear Lines and Boiler Room event this Wednesday

I think having a safer space policy is the very least you can do as a promoter or venue to make your stance on harassment clear and acknowledge the risks womxn take when stepping into your party.”

 – Martha, DJ, sound artist and documentary-maker. 

Our collaboration with international dance party curators Boiler Room this coming Wednesday 17th October has got us in the mood for a proper boogie. And we’re even more thrilled to announce a line-up of Boiler Room faves who will be ensuring we can dance the night away together whilst raising funds and awareness for Clear Lines’ mission to create open, honest and inclusive conversation around sexual assault.

The event is guest list only and it’s filling up fast, so remember to email us at clearlinesfestival@gmail.com as soon as possible to join us on the night. And in case you haven’t been persuaded yet, we thought we’d let one of Wednesday night’s amazing artists, Martha, do the talking. A member of our team recently spoke to Martha; DJ, sound artist and documentary maker from Peckham, who shared with us her thoughts on safe spaces and the role of music in creating open discussion.

     How did you get into DJing/performing?

I have always been very active in searching for new music. I started playing on Reprezent Radio (which was in Peckham at the time, where I’m from) when I was 16 and began working in radio production a few years after. Radio is my favourite medium and programming my show comes quite easy to me, but it took me ages to learn to DJ and be confident with it, to be honest it’s something I’m still experimenting with and developing.

     Who are your role models, and why are role models important?

I’m really lucky to have some amazing mentors in my life who have helped me realise my potential and bring my ideas to life. They’re not necessarily people in the public eye, and that’s important. Whilst it’s great to have figures on Instagram and in the media to look up to, they can feel quite far away. Celebrate and appreciate the real ones around you who want to share their experience and their knowledge. Role models who look like you are the first step in helping you visualise yourself doing something you’re interested in and passionate about, but the hard work will come from you!

     Have you ever felt as though your career in the music industry has been hindered in some way because of who you are and how you identify?

Any blocks I faced coming through in the music industry are similar to issues womxn face in a great number of industries. These things are not specific to music and everyone in every workplace should be considerate of the daily battles womxn face just trying to do their jobs.

     Do you enjoy nights out as a punter as well as DJing? How do you feel when you are out in a club crowd? Are there specific nights that feel more comfortable than others? 

It’s not something I have one answer for because each scenario is different. I’m a very shy person and being in crowds can be quite overwhelming, but I love experiencing music on an amazing sound-system and soaking up the atmosphere DJ’s create during their sets. That love often outweighs my anxieties. so you’ll find me at the back of Room 2 Corsica studios at the hyper-dub night, in this groove in the wall that’s just enough space for my body.

     What are your thoughts on specifically ‘safe space’ clubs or nights? Do you think they work?

I think having a safer space policy is the very least you can do as a promoter or venue to make your stance on harassment clear and acknowledge the risks womxn take when stepping into your party. Putting a poster up saying you have a safer space policy is not the same as having a safer space policy. The staff need to be briefed and trained to deal with scenarios that may come up on the night and the whole club team should be on the same page! I think these policies are good for raising awareness and starting conversations with those who might not have considered safety in a club environment before.

     How would you/do you create safe spaces to make club environments more inclusive, particularly for people who have had negative experiences in terms of sexual harassment, assault or violence?

I’m no expert but most of it is just basic respect and common sense. Listening to individuals who have been affected is essential, and (if they’re happy for you to) elevate their voices, then roll out any practical support they ask for.

     Clear Lines aims to create discussion on the themes of sexual violence and consent through the arts. Do you think music has the power to create discussion?

Yes, that’s a huge part of music’s functionality. But at the same time we should also consider that music is an escape for many people who have been through a lot.

Martha is a DJ, sound artist and documentary maker from Peckham, south east London. Martha plays on NTS every Friday 3-4PM and produces The Hour podcast for RA. You can find out more about Martha on her Instagram page and on Facebook

Martha will be joined on Wednesday 17th October by renowned DJs BBZ, Lil C and Manara, who will be bringing the sound to Clear Lines. Remember to get your name on the guest list by emailing us at clearlinesfestival@gmail.com.

Get your name on the list for our October event!

We have a very exciting collaboration with international dance music curators Boiler Room to bring you a special fundraising party on Wed, Oct 17th!  As a leading music platform, Boiler Room events book up within days, so if you would like to attend please email names to clearlinesfestival@gmail.com as soon as you can!
  • This event is meant to draw attention to sexual harassment & assault within the club, music, and festival scenes — and highlight the need for gender equality in these industries.
  • Line Up TBC (but all very exciting DJs)
  • Open Dance-floor Policy: By joining us in this space, you agree to celebrate and respect everyone in the Boiler Room community – regardless of race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, physical ability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • BYOB
  • Free to attend, but suggested donation £5 on the door. All proceeds go towards helping us continue to run Clear Lines events.
Boiler Room, Bethnal Green
Wednesday 17th October, 2018
7.00pm-10.00pm

Registration now open for Clear Lines 2017

Clear Lines Festival to Address Sexual Assault and Consent Through Art, Comedy & Panel Discussions Bringing Testimonies Forward

Not the Booker prize winner Winnie M Li and activist Tania Mendes announce full line

In the midst of the #MeToo movement and a growing public awareness around sexual misconduct, a dedicated group of volunteers are bringing back Clear Lines Festival for its second edition, taking place from 1st to 3rd December 2017 at Rich Mix in London.Clear Lines brings together a lively line-up of artists, speakers, activists, survivors, academics, and therapists to address sexual assault, abuse, and consent through the arts and discussion.The festival aims to replace the shame and stigma around these issues with insight, understanding, and community.
Winnie M Li, Artistic Director of Clear Lines, is herself a rape survivor and author, whose novel Dark Chapter recently won The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2017. She set up Clear Lines in 2015 with psychologist Dr. Nina Burrowes and a group of volunteers, including Tania Mendes, Festival Director.
Winnie M Li said:
“There is something so isolating about the aftermath of sexual violence, and victims often feel they should stay silent because no one wants to hear their stories. But #MeToo has proven how many stories are out there, and how they need to be heard. With Clear Lines, we’re trying to collectively devise creative ways of storytelling, healing and challenging rape culture. Through the arts and comedy, we can bring to life the human side of these experiences, in ways that emotionally reach audiences and lead to connection and understanding.”
This year’s programme includes award-winning comedians Sara Pascoe and Tiff Stevenson, New York Times best-selling novelist Marti Leimbach, psychologist and policy consultant Dr. Nina Burrowes. Theatre, film screenings, stand-up comedy, and spoken word all feature in artistic showcases, alongside Q&A discussions about art and the lived experience of gender-based violence.
Run entirely with crowdfunding and the good will of those involved, the festival was started in 2015 by a small group of activists, artists, and therapists who felt a space was needed to talk openly and honestly about experiences of sexual assault and abuse.Now, with #MeToo trending, they feel that space is needed more than ever.
Tania Mendes, Festival Director, said:
“Clear Lines provides the space to tackle what can be the difficult subject of consent and sexual assault, whilst currently sitting alongside the momentum currently seen with the #MeToo campaign, we hope that more people will be open and come forward to listen and contribute to this discussion. There isn’t a single voice or experience.The goal is to make a festival like Clear Lines redundant in the future. But for now, this platform is needed and we’re calling out to everyone to take part in a problem that impacts and is entangled within all of society. There is a shift in attitude and we need to embrace it and collectively ask ourselves how we can help. Now is the time.”
Two years after its founding Clear Lines is growing, with foreign filmmakers flying in to present their films. Li and Mendes are planning to secure funding in the future so the scope of the festival can expand outside London to the UK and beyond.
In addition to responding to #MeToo, Clear Lines 2017 will also highlight the intersectionality of experiencing sexual abuse and assault, with sessions focusing on disabled survivors, LGBTQ survivors, and BAME or ethnic minority survivors.

Registration for Clear Lines 2017 is now open. Most events are free but booking is required. To reserve your spot in sessions throughout the festival, click here.

We did it! Thank you for supporting our crowdfunding campaign.

WOW — we did it!!

We set a very steep goal of raising £3,000 in just 3 weeks, and we’re THRILLED to say we surpassed that goal!  On Nov. 17th, we successfully raised £3,320 from 71 supporters in just 21 days.

Thanks to all of you, we are now able to officially declare Clear Lines 2017 a go! We’ve been able to secure our amazing venue, Rich Mix, for 3 days with incredible sessions, arts, and performances taking place from Friday to Sunday.

From all of us, a massive THANK YOU — and we hope to see you at Clear Lines from Dec. 1-3! Tickets will be available this week; in the meantime, please check out our speakers and schedule to get excited!

— the Clear Lines 2017 team

Volunteer Recruitment Meeting on Oct. 31, 2017

We are fast approaching Clear Lines 2017, which is taking place from Friday, December 1st until Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 at Rich Mix.

If you are passionate about ending sexual violence, and all forms of VAWG, please come along to the Clear Lines 2017 volunteer recruitment meeting at 7 pm on Tuesday, October 31st, 2017, at the Southbank Centre (exact location to be announced on our Facebook event).

There are lots of ways to get involved, big and small, remotely and in person. We are looking for individuals with a variety of skill sets to help with planning and logistics on the lead up to the festival, to support us with fundraising, ticket sales, and social media, and to volunteer througout the festival. We only ask that you are honest with the amount of time you can commit and are passionate and commited to making Clear Lines 2017 happen!

Feel free to get in touch via Facebook or email or email info@clearlines.org.uk if you have any questions.

We hope to see you on there!