CHILDREN who have lived with domestic abuse are among those who have shared their powerful testimonies in a new book of stories, designed to help other youngsters recognise toxic relationships and seek help.

The children, aged 11 to 14, attended sessions led by Creative Youth Opportunities, in Seaham, where they helped write six fictional stories for Sometimes It Hurts, where some of them drew on their experiences of domestic violence, neglect, divorce, and unhealthy, controlling behaviours – either in the home or in their own relationships.

Two of the young people who took part in the project went on to identify abuse in their lives and seek help, while many said they had felt let down on occasions by adults who didn’t understand their home lives.

The book is part of a project by the arts education company, Changing Relations, based in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, which uses the arts to explore issues around often taboo subjects, such as domestic violence, gender stereotypes and men’s mental health issues. Their innovative approach creates books, exhibitions, animations and films which are used as valuable resources for training in schools, businesses and communities.

Lisa Charlotte Davis, managing director of Changing Relations, said: “Our work allows for conversations around difficult and often taboo subjects, giving a voice to many who have been unable to speak out. For example, those experiencing same sex domestic abuse or child on parent violence.

“In Sometimes It Hurts, the children helped write fictional narratives, creating the characters and situations, but in doing so, they gave voice to their own experiences of neglect and abuse. This way of working, by using the arts, is far more impactful than us simply telling them what a healthy and unhealthy relationship looks like.”

Michelle Harland, CEO of Creative Youth Opportunities, in Seaham, led a weekly programme of creative workshops with the groups of young people, inviting them to discuss ideas of family, relationships, hurt, trust and getting support and creating scrap books with their thoughts and ideas.

Said Michelle: “There were tears from some when they read their stories in the book, in a good way, in that they hoped it would act as a positive opportunity for others to open up about their stories and create their own scrapbooks. They were very keen for their teachers to read the stories so they would have a better understanding of the challenges children sometimes face outside of the classroom.”

Changing Relations’ artistic director, Pollyanna Turner, led the artistic team including writer Bridget Hamilton, illustrator Tamsin Rees and animator Sheryl Jenkins, to create the book and accompanying animation.

The book will now be used as a resource for teachers, social workers and youth workers, with different Talking Points at the end of each story.

The project was funded by Arts Council England, Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership, Stanley Area Action Partnership, Gaunless Gateway Big local, National Lottery, Digital Drive and Digital Boost.

For more information on the book and resources visit: https://bit.ly/3HmemV2