HIDDEN CRISIS: Domestic violence needs tackling (photo credit: BBC)
FOUR MEMBERS of a close-knit family who have all survived or witnessed domestic violence have put together a powerful video as part of an awareness campaign to encourage more African Caribbean women to seek help to escape domestic violence.
Joan Campbell and her three grown-up children Simone, Tonia and son Khari Campbell-Shepherd put together the short film in five days after Joan says she had ‘a spiritual message’ whilst ill in bed, urging her to make the video.
Songwriter and vocalist Selena Mai, also a family member, has created the sound track I am which gives a powerful dimension to the video called Visible Relevant Woman that was filmed by Joan herself.
As director of Community Vision West Midlands community interest company (CIC), a mentoring organisation that supports families, offenders and victims of crime, Joan says the video, launched on International Women’s Day, will provide a platform for a conference on domestic violence later this year.
She told The Voice:
“We’re currently in our third year of providing a victim support service that was commissioned by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson. I’m delighted that he has agreed to fund and open the conference that will probably be held in the autumn.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR: Tonia Campbell-Shepherd, back, with from left, Joan Campbell and Khari Campbell-Shepherd and Simone, front
Making the video has had a profound effect on Joan, who has spoken out publicly for the first time about how she left an abusive relationship 18 years ago. She says she remains on good terms with her former partner, who is the father of her three children.
Daughter Tonia, 28, a drama graduate, who works under the name Jaisha Mai Sky, wrote the script and plays the role of the abuse victim, with brother Khari playing the abuser. Older sister Simone is planning to write a blog that analyses the video to accompany the film. Other women appear in the short film holding up signs written with positive affirmations that run alongside the chaos and the madness as the abused woman tries to flee.
The whole family say that making the film together has had a great healing effect on them and reaffirmed their confidence and self-esteem.
As a man, Khari, 22, found it very hard to play the role of abuser. He said:
“It felt very awkward, but it was also good because as a young black male I got to be involved in this. Many young men these days grow up fatherless and simply don’t know how to treat a woman properly, so they tend to make the same mistakes and even worse.”
The video – produced on a tiny budget and recorded at Birmingham-based Ambitious Studio – ends with some key messages urging women not to suffer in silence. It urges: ‘Don’t stay – walk away,’ and advises them to speak to a family member, a friend, a teacher, doctor, religious leader or anyone they trust.
Watch Visible Relevant Woman below:
Joan, a trained probation officer, feels that current domestic violence support services are not designed for African Caribbean women who often end up as ‘square pegs in round holes.’ Existing services, she believes, are designed for the experiences of European and Asian women.
“Our women have been made invisible and irrelevant by abusive partners; society reinforces that invisibility because they don’t want to take the time to understand our story.
“We’re then criticised for being ‘hard to reach’ when we don’t access these services, but actually we’re not hard to reach – we’re easy to ignore. My message to our women is: we are visible, we are relevant and our lives are valuable. We now need to start empowering ourselves.
“Our journey needs to be understood in relation to our history. We hide behind this strong black woman myth that society places on us where we are expected to carry the world on our shoulders, even when we’re bent double.
“We’re not allowed to have the emotional breakdowns publicly that our white counterparts can have. We have to be this strong black woman because that is who we have been historically from slavery right the way through to this day.
“Slavery was systematic in destroying our family structures, so much so that the man could never look at the woman as being his wife because the woman was the property of somebody else, as was he. I feel people underestimate that legacy of 500 years of history; it influences how we behave today.”
“As African Caribbean women, when we are in an abusive relationship we take triple the time, if not quadruple the time to pick up the phone and call the police. That’s not because we’re more oppressed than anyone else – it’s because once our men hit the criminal justice system their experience is different.
“We live in a society now where we don’t even know if calling the police is going to result in them being killed. So we sit in these abusive relationships.”
Speaking on reactions to the video, Tonia said:
“The response has been overwhelming, but also therapeutic for us. So many women, including white sisters, have been speaking out – one woman said she was crying at work while watching it. It’s also been shared by quite a few men and several agencies have also shown an interest.
“We hope people will subscribe to the YouTube channel 'Visible Relevant' to see the film for themselves. It could change a life or even save a life.”
Contact Community Vision West Midlands:
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