Thursday 23 May 2019

Exhibition highlights personal stories of childhood sexual abuse

Stock photo
Stock photo

Gabija Gataveckaite

An exhibition showcasing harrowing personal accounts of childhood sexual abuse is to open this week in Dublin.

The exhibition, entitled 'I am One in Four', accompanies an expert report where ten people share their personal experiences of childhood sexual abuse and a culture of silence.

Conducted by sociologist Dr Maria Quinlan and visual artist Patrick Bolger, the exhibition uses a method called 'photovoice', where participants share their experiences through storytelling and photographs.

"The project highlights most strongly the theme of silence. People’s experiences are hidden in plain sight of their families and communities – and they themselves are silenced by shame, stigma and fear," said Dr Quinlan.

“The first silence is victims own silence enforced through grooming, befriending, asserting power and control. There is also internalised guilt, shame and stigma which serves to keep victims’ silence,” she added.

The exhibition consists of photographs taken by the participants, which are in some way, associated with their experiences. The pictures are accompanied by text, which details the participant's feelings and memories of the abuse.

Both Quinlan and Bolger experienced similar abuse and shared their own stories with participants through photovoice.

"We showed our own photographs and what they represent for us and then asked the group to take photos over a week, of anything in relation to what reminds them of their experiences," Dr Quinlan told Independent.ie.

Items like a broken compasses, life savers and a smashed pot with a plaster stuck on the gap appear in the photographs.

"People took photos of random things, which is very powerful healing. One intimate photo was a picture of a lifeboy, with the idea that nobody helped," she added.

The report also explores how the participants have healed through telling their stories.

"There's very powerful healing in telling the story. Once we gathered all the photographs, they were put on a big screen and the participants recorded what the photos meant to them. Everything was transcribed verbatim and sent to them, allowing them to rewrite and edit as they best saw fit."

The exhibition is open to the public at the Liffey Corner of the CHQ building, George’s Dock. It will remain open until Friday, May 17th.

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