*My name is Steven, and I am a co-director of Empath Action CIC, and I have never been sexually assaulted or harassed.
Were one of my female-identifying colleagues to be writing this piece today, they most likely could not say the same. In fact, 86 percent of young women report facing sexual harassment, and only 3 percent of women aged 18-24 are confident in saying they have never been sexually harassed. Around 71 percent of women across all ages report having been sexually harassed in a public space. These figures are according to a survey by the all-party parliamentary group for UN Women UK.
For many of you reading this, these are not just horrific statistics, they are lived experiences. They are part of your stories. They are part of our society’s story too, and that needs to change.
At Empath Action CIC we serve the people of the Wakefield district by helping to tell their stories through theatre performance, through film, through poetry, through crafting, through any creative medium that allows people to unlock their feelings and share them in a supportive and safe environment.
That is why, when a couple of our in-house actors approached us with a project called 97% about this topic, we knew that this was a story that needed to be heard. The actors, Eve Tinsley and Lucy Tranter, formed Hit Like a Girl Theatre as a female-led theatre company during their final year at the Mechanics’ Theatre for Performing Arts here in Wakefield. Eve and Lucy conceived the short play, 97%, partly as a response to the horrific Sarah Evarard case, but also as an artistic response to their lived experiences of sexual harassment.
With the generous award of the Mayor’s Fund grant, we can now help Eve and Lucy turn that short drama piece into a full play that charts the experience of Charlotte, a University student who is sexually assaulted after a night out, and whose mental health and life begin to crumble as she struggles with the social isolation of firstly not wanting to talk about what happened to her, and secondly not knowing who will take her seriously when she finally can open up.
A play is a powerful medium for starting a conversation, but at Empath we never want the conversation to be one-sided, so following each performance of our play we will facilitate a question and answer session with the cast in which we will invite audience members to investigate the themes and real-world statistics that underpin the play. In addition, and with the help of the wonderful people at Wakefield Libraries, the Ridings Shopping Centre, the Castleford Heritage Trust and Queen’s Mill, and many more wonderful cultural friends and supporters, we will offer a leaflet telling the story of this play alongside a raft of information and services through which people can access help and confidential expert advice.
Below are some pictures from the incredible awards ceremony we were invited to attend as part of the grant giving process.
This event, which was officiated by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe OBE, was also attended by over 30 other grant award winners, all of who had remarkable stories and causes that they serve. The funds for this grant are made available from monies and assets seized in the prevention of criminal activity.
We can’t wait to get to work rehearsing the full play, so please do check back often or use the form below to be added to our general mailing list.
*This post is partly made up of a speech Steven gave at the awards fund to summarise the project. It has been lightly edited to fit here.