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