Ladies and Gentlemen, as the proud Patron of SafeLives, I am delighted to welcome you to this extraordinary, and profoundly touching, exhibition.
The stories we have heard today are heartbreaking, but they are not, by any means, unique. Domestic abuse can, and does, affect anyone. In the last 12 months, 1 in 20 people have experienced such abuse in England and Wales: a 6% increase in reported incidents. Globally, almost one third of women aged 15-49 have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
I am therefore deeply grateful to Allie, the SICK Festival and to SafeLives for this exhibition, which so effectively opens our eyes to the reality of living with, and surviving, abuse. The photographs are both incredibly moving and inspiring. Moving - because of the depth of pain and loss that the survivors have endured at the hands of those who claimed to love them, and inspiring - because these photographs show us how survivors can, and do, take back their own identity and their own stories, which have too often been eroded and taken from them by the abuse they have suffered.
Part of the power of these photographs lies in the fact that the images are not of victims, as we might have supposed: but, in the words of one of them, “strong, feisty, brave survivor[s], changing the journey from victim to victor…making it smoother, shorter and never lonely”. In the same way, these photographs make us reframe the questions that we ask of those living with domestic abuse: rather than “why didn’t they leave”, we should ask, “why didn’t the perpetrator stop?”. As one survivor wrote, “He tried to kill me. He nearly killed me. That’s his failure. My survival, my thriving again, is my success”.
I am so honoured to launch this exhibition and I wish it, and all the survivors who are gathered here every possible success as, together, we seek to end domestic abuse forever. Thank you.