Australian Women Knock Out Sex Abuse Trauma via Boxing and Writing

Eight women from Australia put on boxing gloves and pick up pens to knock out the demons of sexual abuse haunting them from the dark memories of their childhood. Their collective fight takes the form of a book, Left / Write // Hook, published by the Loving Healing Press.

Edited by Donna Lyon, Left / Write // Hook tells the stories of eight survivors-all female or gender-diverse and ranging in age from 28 to 55-who suffered childhood abuse ranging from incest, attacks from people in their social circles, to assaults by complete strangers, and through to organizational, institutional, and ritual abuse. They come together in the spirit of fighting the enemy-within, using boxing and writing as their weapons and documenting an inspiring and empowering journey to victory.

Project History and Location

The book is the outcome of, and named after, a unique project – Left / Write // Hook, founded and led by boxer, academic, researcher, producer, and survivor Donna Lyon. She started the project independently in 2019 and ran the project twice at her local boxing gym.

Next year, in 2020, Donna took the project into the research space at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where she worked as a lecturer in Film and Television. As part of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music within the University of Melbourne, her project was funded through a grant from the Creativity and Wellbeing Research Institute. Combining an interdisciplinary research team and mixed methods research design to explore the impact on the program on the participants well-being and sense of agency finally led to the book version of Left / Write // Hook.

Boxing and writing book cover
Image @ Loving Healing Press

Two Levels of Difficulty

With a sensitive issue like childhood sexual abuse, recovery is not easy and the path to victory is laden with difficulties. Donna Lyon tells that the Left / Write // Hook project was difficult on two main levels.

“First, at the end of week two of Round One, Covid-19 hit, so we pivoted online.”

Melbourne, Australia experienced one of the longest and toughest lockdowns in the world. The project team spent approximately seven months in domestic and online environments and ran the project on zoom. Initially, the project was only meant to run for one round (eight weeks), but because of the lockdown, Donna ended up running the project for three rounds. This meant the group went on a significant emotional, mental and physical journey together to produce this book.

Another difficulty was the emotional complexity of the project. Talking about sexual abuse is difficult and there is a heaviness with this work. As Donna put it:

“There was lots of shame and fear and anxiety that many of us had to battle through each week.”

Yet, the framework that Donna had created was rigorous and did provide a sense of safety and emotional well-being to help hold the feelings that arose each week. At times, participants felt exhausted dealing with the effects of their abuse in the workshop each week. It was certainly a commitment.

Gift of Friendship

Participation in the boxing and writing practice for Left / Write // Hook project brought something precious to each member of the group – the gift of friendship.

“As a group, we became very close,” says Donna. “Sharing such intimate thoughts, feelings and beliefs each week meant that bonds were formed very quickly.” She tells that the women in the group are now in contact on group messenger chat all the time and provide words of encouragement to continue to support each other’s recovery.

The Next Stage

Owing to her academic interest and experience in Film and Television, Donna has plans to bring the project to life on screen. She has been working with a documentary team who have been filming the program with the intent of producing a long-form documentary film.

For updates and to learn more about Left/Write//Hook, readers can visit www.leftwritehook.com.

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