PETALING JAYA: Depression, stress, anxiety – these are among the effects felt by those who have experienced sexual violence.
Some feel like what happened is their fault, leading to a sense of shame and guilt. Instead of speaking out about the incident, they retreat into silence and carry the burden on their own.
With this in mind, Penang-based arts team Dabble Dabble Jer Collective (DDJC) is presenting “Burden of Proof”, a multidisciplinary devised theatre production aimed at giving victim-survivors a platform to share their stories.
DDJC will utilise performance and visual arts to raise awareness and education on acts such as harassment, assault, domestic violence, and rape, in a bid to spearhead collective responsibility in the movement against sexual violence.
“There will be original music, movement pieces, and monologues based on lived realities. It will be written in a way that the stories can be communicated through a theatre setting while honouring the truth from the victim-survivor,” founding member Miriam Devaprasana, 29, told FMT.
There will also be an art installation and dialogue sessions on topics such as the definition of sexual assault or harassment.
Miriam, a graduate research assistant at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said they are partnering with the NGO Women’s Centre for Change, who have been offering advice and guidance.
“Burden of Proof” will be held at the Angel Community Café and Space in George Town from Nov 18 to Dec 3.
The programme will partially coincide with “16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”, an annual international campaign that calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
In addition, on Nov 26, there will be a screening of the award-winning documentary “The Boys Club”, by Malaysian film director Yihwen Chen.
A call for survivor stories
DDJC is looking for stories on the lived realities of victim-survivors in Malaysia, the struggles of seeking justice, and the experiences in the fight to end sexual violence.
They also wish to hear from those who have overcome the harrowing experience and found healing.
In the future, they plan to publish a research paper and a book of short stories and prose poems based on these narratives.
For Miriam, this is a cause close to her heart as she has personally experienced sexual harassment on more than one occasion. “It left me wondering what could be done to raise more awareness,” she shared.
A conversation with her friend Charity Yong and four others led to the formation of DDJC in December. With a conviction that the arts have the power to challenge and change, DDJC aims to tell stories that are hidden, neglected, forgotten, or uncomfortable.
With “Burden of Proof”, they believe that “giving voice to the unspoken realities within our community is the first step to making a difference”.
“In the future, we also hope to organise a series of master classes for music, theatre, and visual arts,” Yong, 25, told FMT.
She believes it’s important to bring the different groups in the arts community together. This, in turn, can foster relationships between established and emerging artistes as well as facilitate an exchange of knowledge.
For now, the team is focused on making sure “Burden of Proof” leaves an impact.
“I’d like for people to realise this is real and it’s a societal problem. My hope is that they’ll question their collective awareness and responsibility and want to do something,” Miriam said.
Yong, who is a dance teacher, added: “I want people to recognise the body language of someone who has been violated or abused. Our bodies tell us and those around us a lot of things. It’s a matter of whether the community can recognise that.”
If you wish to share your survivor story or have any enquiries, please email [email protected]. Submissions close on April 15. Unless indicated, stories will remain anonymous.