Gutsy Goddess—Imogen Butler-Cole

Actress Imogen Butler-Cole in Foreign Body, "a beautifully crafted solo show about healing after sexual assault." Photo by Chantal Guevara

“By giving voice to our traumas we can transform them into positive aspects of our lives.

Photo © Grace Gelder

I was sexually assaulted three times between the ages of 20 – 23. At the time I didn’t recognize these assaults for the challenges they were. Like many victims of sexual assault I suppressed the memory of them until decades later when, due to hearing, reporting and prosecution of similar incidents elsewhere, I began to recognize them. My challenge was overcoming the residual effects of the assault—numbing, inability to trust, shame and humiliation—through a long and intensive healing process. I engaged in talking therapy, physical therapy, tantric healing, and a lot of spiritual and emotional exploration. One of the results of this process was creating Foreign Body, a play about my experiences and those of several other survivors. Now it is the achievement I am proudest of in my life.

Photo © Chantal Guevara

The play is a very palpable end result and a testament to the fact that I am now whole, healed and strong. It is a solo performance and a very physical one so I am demonstrating the potential for healing simply by performing it. I am always touched when other survivors and victims of sexual sexual violence respond positively to the piece and speak of its healing effects. My greatest learning is that by giving voice to our trauma and by tending our wounds we can transform them into positive aspects of our lives. I have learned this from the extraordinary community of survivors I am so grateful to have become part of since speaking out about my experiences. They are the most inspiring people I have met and I am continually in awe of the edge, tenacity and humor with which they keep on at life.

Photo © Chantal Guevara

For survivors and victims of sexual assault I wholeheartedly recommend a similar combination of healing to the one I have described above. I had to process the assaults physically, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally before I was able to move on. To me the physical was and remains, a particularly important aspect. It is a physical trauma after all and I found it was still lodged in my body even after over a decade later. Community is another vital key. Knowing there are others who have overcome similar abuses makes it feel less daunting and less horrific. There are spaces and groups —both online and in person—that you can find and I recommend doing so. Having said that everyone will find his or her own way of healing. There is no one approach that will suit every survivor. Each body, each experience, and each trauma are completely individual, as are the people that need to overcome them.

Photo © Chantal Guevara

I am about to perform Foreign Body for the last time in London after very successful runs at Southbank Center, Soho Theater and else where. I hope that once again it is full of people who can be served by the piece, in whatever way that might be. It is as much apiece for those who know survivors and are not sure how to address what has happened to them, as it is for survivors themselves. Thereafter I am planning a tour of India in August and September of this year, I have a local producer, venue and women’s rights organizations who are all keen to make the tour happen—now we just have to find the necessary funding. I am also about to book a UK tour for October and November of this year. I’d love to take it to the States but haven’t started to plan that venture yet. Essentially I want as many people as possible to share this with me. I have seen the positive effect it can have and we so desperately need to create a healing dialogue around sexual violence so that we can uproot it and free our societies from it’s scourge.” Imogen

Note from Admin Heidi Love: So grateful to have met this extraordinary woman, writer, and performer—Imogen Butler-Cole. It takes great courage to speak your truth; conversations and support from men and women are vital to change. Please join our conversation. If you have questions or comments to share with Imogen and/or our community of strong and emerging voices, please leave them below. We would love to hear from you. You never know whom you might inspire or where it might lead.

To learn more about Imogen’s play Foreign Body, and to view the powerful trailer please click here. 

To learn more about the VAULT Festival 2018 please click here. Foreign Body opens March 7, 2018 at the Vaulys, London and will be preformed through March 11 before opening in India.


  1. WOW … such strength and courage. It’s so great you are performing your truth; such a powerful and inspirational way to express your strength and healing and to transfer that courage to others. I sure hope you bring “Foreign Body” to the States!

  2. Thank you so much for commenting Dennis. It’s important to have male allies and to expand the conversation. It would be amazing if she brought Foreign Body to the States. I’m glad that you watched the trailer!!

  3. Thank you for sharing this story of courage and hope. I too hope you will bring it to the states.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation Mary and for sharing your story too. For those of you who don’t know Mary her book “The Shadows in my Heart” is in the Brave Book section of this site. I too hope Imogen brings Foreign Body to the States. It would be amazing to have more people see it and also to have a Gutsy Goddess Gathering.

  4. So inspiring to see women transforming trauma into art, and into ways to reach others. This show sounds amazing!

    • Hi Kim. I love the way you put it, “transforming trauma into art,” and also Imogen’s words, ” By giving voice to our traumas we can transform them into positive aspects of our lives.” In my new book I write about “transcendence.” We need new language beyond “victim” and “survivor” because so many women have made extraordinary achievements beyond surviving. Anyway, thanks for being part of this important conversation.

  5. Imogen is so inspiring for turning her pain and trauma into hope and healing. Thanks for sharing her story, Heidi!

  6. What a unique way to present this. The trailer was short but so intriguing!

    • I loved the trail too and also the website background where it gave the stats and responsibilities. I so often hear. This has nothing to do with me, yet I wonder if we don’t all share responsibility in the solution. Anyway, thank you so much Lynda; bald you were intrigued.

  7. This is inspiring on so many levels, Heidi. Your stories give me the right energy and nudge just when I’m curling up into myself. Imogen is a towering, powerful figure I can learn so much from.

    • Thanks for being part of the conversation Damyanti! Her work is powerful and so desperately needed. So glad you are inspired. I hope you will return anytime you feel you’re curling up into yourself and/or let me know if I can help. Hugs.

  8. Wow! Just wow.
    What a way to take an awful situation and make it positive. Very powerful 😊

    • Thank you Ritu. I’m so glad you find it powerful. I also love that each play ends with a discussion led by someone respected in the field of sexual assault. As a survivor I find her work and discussions very important. I’m grateful we seem to be at a turning point where more beneficial conversations are happening and more of the violence is being exposed and prosecuted. I appreciate that you are part of the conversation!

  9. I am in two minds whether I would ever go and see it. Great to highlight a powerful play.

    • Hi Suz, Thanks for your comment. It is certainly not for everyone yet for those at the stage where open conversations on sexual assault can be healing and welcome, and for those who have loved one who are survivors, it is a powerful and thoughtful conversation starter. As a survivor of childhood assault there were many years where I would not have been able to join this conversation or see this play, yet I now feel supported by this type of work. I also hope I can be supportive of people in whatever stage they are in. I appreciate your thoughts.

  10. I’m blown away that you have managed to come out of something so dark by creating something so healing and beautiful. Best of luck with the tour of India, it sounds amazing!

  11. Imogen is a surviver and a ballsy talented woman. Having worked a short while in New Delhi I admire her courage which will needed in bucket loads. Taking this performance to people who live with the trauma of abuse and assult more than most will be tough, but as they say sombody needs to do it. The responsibility to highlight, speakout, stand up against all abuse wieghs heavily on people on the sidelines, but I know how hard it is for someone shouting from the inside; as Imogen does. Good luck, I am proud knowing there are people like her who find strength and courage on behalf of the shattered. She gives them hope.

  12. Thank you for your thoughts Ellen. I particularly appreciated your comment about how the “responsibility weighs heavy for those on the sidelines,” but how hard it is for those “shouting from the inside.” I too am proud of her courage and strength and to stand with her. She gives me hope too.

  13. Very powerful. I am a huge proponent of taking charge of the narrative of one’s story–it makes all the difference in one’s life, as evidenced here.

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