Circus For Survivors

As a direct response to the #MeToo campaign from the circus industry, I wanted to create something which took action based upon the conversations which had been opened up.

The quick pitch is that we need money to make this happen.  Circus folk and Survivors alike will understand quite how important reclaiming your body can be. We are trying to set up accessible classes which make a real difference.  

There are more details below.

At the beginning of 2020 we had been planning to run a group dance workshop to support Survivors of sexual violence to reconnect with their bodies following the #MeToo movement.

As the pandemic unfolded as our pilot project was read to launch, it began to become apparent that the scope of what we could offer and the need for a joined-up approach to physical health and mental well-being were going to become essential to survive this period.

We collaborated with local freelancers who had lost work do to COVID and provided training on intersectionality, anti-racism and handling disclosures and how this can show up in our work and our responses.

Having listened to participants, we expanded our definition of Survivors to be self-determined rather than dictating the trauma we were supporting, especially as so many people who were approaching us were not only having a really tough time but reporting that they did not feel they were worthy of a space as “other people have it worse”.

We also devised a programme which can be delivered in different ways,  both on and off line and where people can attend solo or group sessions, according to their needs.


What will happen:
Physical empowerment workshops will be run for survivors of trauma, facilitated by women for women, to help rebuild their relationship with their body.

Our workshops include: 
·      Aerial / trapeze workshops for developing body autonomy and strength; 
·      Photoshoots for self esteem
·      Group dance classes aimed at those with social anxiety
·      One to one chair yoga sessions online
·      Boxing classes when social distancing measures allow

Who will benefit:
- Women aged 18+ who identify as survivors of abuse.
- Trainers will be coached in unconscious bias, intersectionality and body autonomy creating a more inclusive environment for teaching circus skills within and long after this project.

Outcomes for participants:
·      Increased body confidence
·      Development of trust
·      Supported boundary setting
·      Network of supportive women

We are seeking funding to make this project possible.


We need to pay for:
- Training space
- Teachers
- Insurance
- Coaching
- Equipment

As our absolute basics.  And we want to make these classes as accessible as possible and that means only asking for a nominal fee for attendance.

This is where we need your help.

As soon as we have enough money to start things, they will begin, the closer we can get to our target, the more we are going to be able to deliver. 


The Need
Before COVID, In the UK, two women were killed by their partners or former partners every week (Office for National Statistics 2019). In 2020 domestic violence surged:

-           Support services reported a ten-fold increase in demand (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-52755109)
-           The Met recording 100 arrests per day (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-52418650)
-           Domestic abuse murder rates more than doubled (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown). 
-           During 2020 Christmas week when the next national lockdown was announced ITV News reported some police forces reported responding to so many incidents of domestic abuse, it made up over half of their workload.

When lockdown eases and people are able to escape entrapment, we expect these numbers to rise.

According to trauma expert Pete Walker, MA, creative exercises are one of the key ways “for working through the toxic legacy of the past and for achieving a rich and fulfilling life”. Our purpose-driven programme will address this need by promoting physical and emotional well-being. It empowers Survivors to cultivate internal security when boundaries have been breached. Using movement to rebuild their relationship with their body and feel their strength to express themselves creatively provides a new path to physical freedom.

The Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University identified when women are removed from immediate control of an abusive men, this is only the first step. Holistic service provision, in addition to short-term risk reduction, is also required.

We aim to build stronger, safer, healthier communities in this time of crisis by forging connections and pathways to healthier choices.


This project has been designed by Survivors for Survivors.   In 2020, we hosted over 200 workshops for self-defined Survivors. Participants are referred by expert Survivors’ support services.  

“Excellent. Absolutely fantastic. For someone who has been suffering from PTSD this has been such a ray of sunlight" – Z

"Can I just say a massive thank you for this. It's been so helpful and really has given me a bit of a new lease of life. These workshops are incredible." – S


“I cannot tell you adequately the amount of stress I’ve faced in 2020 and the time spent with you was very much in contrast with that.” – S


“I felt so happy and in my body! I have found that during lockdown I've been increasingly dissociative, so to be connected to my body felt really empowering!” – J


“It really felt like a moment to reclaim things after the trauma” – M

So this is your chance: 
- if you can envision the huge impact these workshops could have on a person's well being, please donate.
- if you found the #MeToo campaign left you with no where to take your desire to change things, please donate.

 If you are unable to donate, please share this campaign on social media.  Personal recommendation goes a long way.

Together, let's change the narrative.


https://www.trueyou.today/circus-for-survivors
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  • Valerie E Polichar 
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Organizer

Anna Strickland 
Organizer
London, Greater London, United Kingdom
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