Testimony as spotlight
20th September 2021
On Our Radar knows that story-gathering and storytelling are essential components of effective community research and advocacy.
This summer, in partnership with domestic abuse charity SafeLives and 10 other organisations, On Our Radar has been surfacing accounts of toxic relationships as experienced by young women, girls and non-binary young people in England and Wales.
As part of the Your Best Friend project, young people aged 13-24 have shared over 60 anonymous stories with us, detailing relationship violence and abuse perpetrated towards themselves or their friends. These stories are a starting point for us to co-design support resources with and for friends of young women, girls and non-binary people who are in toxic relationships.
Each story of harm is unique, because no two people have a lived experience that is exactly the same. And yet when these compelling stories are read as a whole, they reveal clear and common patterns of abusive behaviours within young relationships: emotional manipulation and gaslighting; isolating partners from friends and support networks; sexual pressure and coercion; constant monitoring of physical and online contact. In this way, individual testimonies become powerful spotlights on endemic social and gender issues that may otherwise remain hidden or ignored.
Young people have also told us that reading real stories of abuse as experienced by their peers also makes it easier for them to understand and address the harm that is happening in their own lives and friendship circles. This is why we previously co-designed Draw the Line, an anonymous and interactive storytelling platform about relationships.
Personal testimony gives us rich insight into social harms. The sharing of these stories can act as a catalyst to much-needed community engagement and action.