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The Disobedient Survivors

Written by Ellie Gurney – member of AVA


Who are The Disobedient Survivors?


Bryony Ball and Meggan Baker, also known as The Disobedient Survivors, are survivors of male violence who have campaigned for years on gender-based violence and abuse, and worked within rape and sexual violence services, alongside the police, within women’s charities and in safe houses.[1] During their careers, they witnessed failings in this sector which was lacking in a “survivor-led approach” and promoted “damaging” stereotypes of what perpetrators and survivors should look like.[2] After accessing support services themselves, Bryony and Meggan felt “unheard” and consequently quit their various roles and started their own gender-based violence support organisation called Survivors Leading Essential Education and Change, or SLEEC.[3] The pair deliberately chose to step away from the existing support sector to build a joyous, powerful and honest space.[4]


What is SLEEC?


Survivors Leading Essential Education and Change, or SLEEC, is a survivor run organisation, established in 2019, which aims to support survivors and rebuild the existing systems that cause harm and oppression.[5] The Disobedient Survivors emphasise that SLEEC is not a charity as, for them, the word charity brings negative connotations.[6] They feel that charity is giving to those inferior and there is a lot to say for problematic power dynamics within the charity sector.[7] Bryony and Meggan insisted there was a need for something very different that moves away from how survivor organisations currently operate.[8] A space where instead of ticking boxes and filling in forms, we connect with each other and see each other.[9] This organisation works towards dismantling the roots of male violence through changing and rebuilding systems, supporting survivors and changing attitudes surrounding recovery and healing:[10]


Changing and rebuilding systems: Crime survey figures published in 2022 by the Office for National Statistics have highlighted the severity of our current climate in terms of male violence and women’s safety as it was revealed that there were 2.4 million adults in England and Wales who experienced domestic abuse in 2021.[11] Whilst the concerns of domestic abuse survivors are finally being taken seriously by those in positions of power, the voices of those who are making important decisions about women's and survivors’ safety are not usually those with lived experience.[12]SLEEC emphasises the importance of survivors’ voices being amplified and respected, taking the approach that we should listen to what women and survivors are saying that they need, rather than deciding for them.[13] Through direct intervention, consultancy training, education and creative media, SLEEC works to change the unhelpful structures and systems that exist within support services, charities, institutions, criminal justice and law.[14] The organisation provides training and consultancy to support services, businesses and institutions in an environment of openness, compassion and respect with the aim of increasing understanding surrounding real safety, survivor’s needs, and improving the quality in which spaces operate.[15] Additionally, they run all different types of education programmes and events from courses and workshops to talks.[16] For instance, Bryony and Meggan devised workshops called Dismantling Male Violence and Rape Culture: A survivor led course for men, which started out online during the pandemic.[17] The sessions included 30 male participants at a time and explored sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, rape culture, consent and erotic literature and art.[18]


Supporting Survivors: SLEEC supports and stands with survivors of all genders.[19] The organisation began with building a space where survivors could unlearn what they had previously been conditioned to believe was the ‘right’ way to heal; a space where survivors were seen as individuals rather than their experiences.[20] This platform encourages survivors to be in control of how they support themselves, how they recover and live the lives they desire, as this is something the founders wanted to see when they were healing from their own trauma.[21] The Disobedient Survivors emphasise that recovery should not be a luxury as part of having control in trauma recovery requires being able to afford treatment and support.[22] Recognising that those without money cannot afford to meet basic requirements of self-care, SLEEC created The Resilience Fund, which provides survivors with mini-grants to access self-care treatment.[23]


Changing attitudes around recovery and healing: The founders of SLEEC recognised that we are a long way from seeing mental health and trauma being depicted accurately within different sectors of our society. As a result of support services and mental health charities being required to impress funders who require results, recovery is perceived as having specific goals and fitting into a fixed narrative, consequently creating unhealthy expectations about how to “improve” mental health.[24] Within the media, survivors are often depicted as weak and dehumanised whilst perpetrators are portrayed as violent men.[25] The narratives reinforced by the media exhibit a huge problem, especially within the criminal justice system, as they suggest that survivors must be ‘the perfect victim’ to be believed.[26] SLEEC therefore challenge the stereotyping of “victim/survivors” and “perpetrators” to enable survivors to identify with their trauma and for those who have caused harm to take accountability for their actions.[27] By challenging these fixed narratives, SLEEC feel that survivors will not feel so dehumanised and will be able to embrace messy mental health and vulnerability.[28] Through humour and playfulness, SLEEC utilises photography, writing and discussions to dismantle the current narrative.[29]








[1] SLEEC, ‘Changing and rebuilding systems’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [2] Jasmine Ketibuah- Foley, ‘Male-violence survivors are re-educating men to prevent harm’ (bbc.co,uk, 7 January 2023) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-63575751> accessed 23 January 2023. [3] Jasmine Ketibuah- Foley, ‘Male-violence survivors are re-educating men to prevent harm’ (bbc.co,uk, 7 January 2023) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-63575751> accessed 23 January 2023. [4] SLEEC, ‘Changing and rebuilding systems’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [5] SLEEC, ‘Who we are’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [6] SLEEC, ‘We are not a charity.’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [7] SLEEC, ‘We are not a charity.’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [8] SLEEC, ‘We are not a charity.’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [9] SLEEC, ‘We are not a charity.’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [10] SLEEC, ‘Who we are’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [11] Nishat Choudhury, ‘Research finds that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed’ (openaccessgovernment.org, 7 October 2022) < https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/97-of-women-in-the-uk/105940/> accessed 24 January 2023. [12] SLEEC, ‘Changing and rebuilding systems’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [13] SLEEC, ‘Changing and rebuilding systems’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [14] SLEEC, ‘Changing and rebuilding systems’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [15] SLEEC, ‘Training, Education & Consultancy’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [16] SLEEC, ‘Training, Education & Consultancy’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [17] Jasmine Ketibuah- Foley, ‘Male-violence survivors are re-educating men to prevent harm’ (bbc.co,uk, 7 January 2023) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-63575751> accessed 23 January 2023. [18] Jasmine Ketibuah- Foley, ‘Male-violence survivors are re-educating men to prevent harm’ (bbc.co,uk, 7 January 2023) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-63575751> accessed 23 January 2023. [19] SLEEC, ‘Supporting survivors’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [20] SLEEC, ‘Supporting survivors’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [21] SLEEC, ‘Supporting survivors’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [22] SLEEC, ‘Recovery shouldnt be a luxury’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [23] SLEEC, ‘Recovery shouldnt be a luxury’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [24] SLEEC, ‘Changing attitudes around recovery and healing’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [25] SLEEC, ‘Changing attitudes around recovery and healing’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [26] SLEEC, ‘Changing attitudes around recovery and healing’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [27] SLEEC, ‘Changing attitudes around recovery and healing’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [28] SLEEC, ‘Changing attitudes around recovery and healing’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023. [29] SLEEC, ‘Changing attitudes around recovery and healing’ (sleec.net, December 2019) <https://sleec.net/2019/12/> accessed 25 January 2023.

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