Anne Riggs PhD. Art for Soothing & Strengthening.
This paper is about an arts project, The Forgotten People, undertaken in the first half of 2022 with a group of former and current clients and staff of a Melbourne sexual assault service which underwent an aggressive structural and cultural change that had profound negative effects on both.
Whilst the service, and its parent, a major Melbourne public hospital, refused to engage in any form of respectful conversation addressing the pain their Carelessness was causing, a creative community formed to express their feelings in art. Our aim was to create together, to initiate ‘soul repair’, to communicate with the health providers, and for the project to be of service in other organisations where client needs can easily be overlooked.
It is a paper about the transformation of those involved from feeling isolated and intimidated by their experiences with the service and hospital, to feeling part of a collective of people doing something positive and uplifting as an act of Care.
You can read and download the full paper here : AFTER THE RUPTURE
MY PAINFUL JOURNEY
In her interview and book, former client Doreen describes her experiences the Monash Emergency and Psychiatric Departments and with SECASA. Like so many other participants in this project, the overwhelming feelings that remain with her are of a lack of understanding, lack of appropriate care for abuse psychiatric patients, and the lack of appropriate services to assist victims of abuse recover.
She describes a prolonged situation of sexual abuse at work, attempting to end her life because of it and being admitted to hospital. During the time she was participating in this project her case was in the legal system; she faced many delays and much uncertainty. The following extracts describe some of her experiences and feelings which closely relate to her book “My Painful Journey”.
They are all men and there was so many of them and they stopped me and brought me back to my little cubicle in the emergency department and they sent a volunteer person to come to me. He is a male and he said to me that he has been through all of this and he was only half a metre away from me. I was on the ground and in the corner of the room against the wall. I was so scared and I kept saying to him: Don’t come near me! Don’t get close to me! and he didn’t understand he just kept coming. He said he was trying to help me but he was not helping me. I got so scared after all the abuse, all the sexual assault. I don’t want any men surrounding me. I was so scared.
P block is the psychiatric unit in Monash health. Most patients there are psychotic but I’m not I’m not but I am not. I am not psychotic. I am a victim of sexual assault. I have PTSD and major depression because of the PTSD. I do not want to be locked up in the P block. It just made me worse. I missed my children but I was told I could not ask my children to come there because it is not a good environment for my children.
“The first time SECASA was going to close my file was when my counsellor told me that she was getting pressure from her managers after six months of providing service to us; they need to start closing clients files as they have other clients to see. I was very disappointed because I had been hospitalised, two hospitalisations and I really needed help. My counsellor has provided excellent service to me and I was feeling very comfortable with her; she understands e from inside and out. I felt very sad that that her managers were putting her under pressure to close my file.
My counsellor said to me that they have to close my file because they are all being deployed by MonashHealth to help out in the hospital due to Covid. I feel very sad that they don’t care about us. Monash health just don’t care about us.Covid is more important than us. Oxygen Oxy metres are more important than us, and we are no one. We are the victims; those who have been abused by sexual assault.
So yes after SECASA has discharged me I had a phone call from the police giving me these options (to proceed to trial), I have no one to talk to. I just feel very disappointed that I have no one to give me some support and to give me some advice. I feel very sad, I can’t even ring my counsellor any more because my file has been closed. She has said I can contact them any time if there is a crisis but I just feel like I got abandoned. I don’t know where to go, I don’t know, I am not in crisis. I was told there was only acute care available. I’m not in crisis so I can’t even contact them. I am lost. So yes I am feeling just very lost at the moment. I feel like I am back in the darkness.
I wish people would understand how we feel and understand that we need help and I want SECASA to understand that. We still need help, they can’t just put a time frame of six months. That just isn’t enough for a victim and I wish Monash would understand that we are patients too.
In making her book, Doreen drew inspiration from the work of Vincent Van Gogh, an artist who also suffered mental ill health. The swirling way she applied text and paint references his work, and the people in her depiction are drawn from his work Prisoners Exercising 1890 (made after a print of Newgate Prison in London by Gustav Dore). her book is bound using Japanese binding.