‘Tina’s Journey’, a voice for domestic violence survivors

(From left) WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan, WAO community engagement officer Kelvin Ng, artist Chan Wen Li and author Bernice Chauly with copies of ‘Tina’s Journey’.

PETALING JAYA: Domestic violence survivors are turning their pain into poetry, using writing as a tool for healing and compiling their experiences in a book.

“Tina’s Journey”, a collection of poetry and prose, is the result of author Bernice Chauly’s two-year creative writing workshops with domestic violence survivors at the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) shelter.

“Writing is a tool for healing. We give voice to our pain, we name it.

“Writing can help us transform that pain into art,” Bernice said at a press conference today.

She said “Tina’s Journey” consists of personal monologues, short stories and poems in both English and Bahasa Malaysia.

In the creative writing workshops, she said, the victims who include refugees and victims of human trafficking, penned their thoughts in English, Arabic, Tamil, Mandarin and Burmese, and their work was subsequently translated.

“Their writings are like journal entries, scribblings and letters to their husbands, to God, so this book is a curation of that text.

Artist Chan Wen Li (centre) explaining her illustrations in ‘Tina’s Journey’. Flanking her are WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan (left) and book author Bernice Chauly.

“The book is a testament that everyone just wants to be happy, safe, loved, and have a future with their children,” she said, adding that she and WAO community engagement officer Kelvin Ng had curated the book.

The book contains 40 pages of prose and is illustrated by artist Chan Wen Li.

“We conceptualised the character Tina as an empowered survivor with a message of hope, and a relatable person whose resilience shines through in the face of adversity.

“We worked to find a voice for Tina that hopefully represents and does justice to the multi-faceted stories and musings of survivors,” Bernice said.

WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said the name Tina had been chosen based on the acronym of the SMS and WhatsApp hotline started by the organisation in 2013, Think I Need Aid (TINA).

She said TINA was a lifeline for domestic violence victims who needed help.

“TINA is very powerful and compelling. We want to move forward, use her as an icon and raise awareness to change the attitude of people.

“If you are a domestic violence survivor or victim, get in touch with TINA. If you know someone who is in a domestic violence situation, call TINA.

“TINA is completely anonymous and will provide support and refer the victim to someone in WAO.”

The hotline for TINA is 018-988 8058.

Sumitra said WAO would hold a book launch and reading session on Dec 9, from 1.30pm to 3pm at RUANG by Think City on Jalan Hang Kasturi.

The launch will feature Bernice, domestic violence survivor Linda Iskandar, as well as an exhibition of Chan’s works.

Sumitra said for now, the books are only available at WAO’s office. However, those interested in getting a copy can also make a donation of RM30 or more through deposit to WAO’s CIMB bank account 80-0238299-7, after which they can email their delivery address and proof of payment to [email protected]