New exhibition highlights stories from survivors of child sexual abuse and Hong Kong’s anti-sexual violence movement

  • Organised by the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, the exhibit uses art and poetry to tell stories from a book published by RainLily
  • Timeline of the city’s fight against sexual violence recognises the efforts of individuals and organisations since the 19th century
Sue Ng |

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Work by poet Sonia Wong Yuk-ying (not pictured) will be featured at the exhibition about sexual violence and survivors in Hong Kong at 480.0 Gender & Art Space in Yau Ma Tei. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

A new exhibition about child sexual abuse aims to tell the stories of adult survivors through art and poetry, as well as the history of Hong Kong’s anti-sexual violence movement, in hopes of bringing more attention to the issue.

Organised by the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (ACSVAW), the exhibition, “TBC – Stories of Surviving Voices”, opened last month. It is the first project under the Jockey Club’s “Back U Up” Community Education Project for Child Survivors of Sexual Violence and is being held at 480.0 Gender & Art Space in Yau Ma Tei.

In the name, TBC, meaning “To Be Continued,” reflects the progress Hong Kong has made against sexual violence, while noting that there is still more work that needs to be done.

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The curator of the exhibition, Wong Ka-ying, said it was inspired by a book published in February by RainLily, an NGO under the ACSVAW. The title of the book in English is Surviving Voices, and it shares the stories of nine adult survivors and how they live with the trauma.

“When I first heard about the book, I thought there was something that we could do with it,” she recalled. “I wanted to have a safe space for the survivors to share their stories and 480.0 is a good fit.”

Wong also wanted to celebrate the association’s 25th anniversary by presenting a timeline of Hong Kong’s anti-sexual violence movement from the 19th century to 2022, showcasing the efforts of individuals and organisations who strived to stop sexual violence in the city. Stories from the book were added to the timeline to echo the events in Hong Kong.

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“Child sexual abuse is a particularly sensitive and difficult subject to address in sexual violence. And all too often, this trauma can only be noticed after the victims grow up, and it’s hard to address and overcome. But through art, their emotions and experiences can be better understood,” she said.

Wong invited four local artists to use their work to visualise the invisible pain of survivors and the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, including Sonia Wong Yuk-ying, a poet and lecturer of gender studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“When I read the book, I could see a lot of ellipsis in the quotes, and you could see how the survivors were unable to talk about it,” Sonia said.

Poet Sonia Wong Yuk-ying believes poetry can be a tool to give survivors a voice. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

“They are still in a state of pain and mess, and we don’t have the language to describe it [the suffering],” said Sonia, adding that poetry can be a tool to give these survivors a voice.

“No one wants to read data or a report, and those numbers don’t tell us about the individual,” she said. “So I took the words from the book that touched my heart and gathered them as poems.”

“I hope my poetry can pull people in and make them feel dizzy and confused – so they have a better idea of a survivor’s state of mind,” said the poet.

Poem titled “Surviving Voices” by Sonia Wong on display at 480.0 Gender & Art Space in Yau Ma Tei. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Linda Wong Sau-yung, executive director of RainLily, said the book describes how adult survivors live with the trauma and aftermath of abuse.

Wong pointed out that delayed disclosure is common in sexual violence cases, especially for victims of child sexual abuse. It takes an average of 12.8 years for them to seek help after the abuse happened – 10 times longer than adult victims. And the abusers were usually their family members or other loved ones.

“Some child victims may not realise they were sexually abused until they grow up, and it requires a lot of courage to challenge their family members,” she explained.

Linda Wong Sau-yung, Director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (ACSVAW), at the Anti-Sexual Violence Resource Centre in Ho Man Tin. Photo: KY Cheng

“In the nine stories, all the survivors are still living and dealing with the aftermath … It’s important for the victims to know that it’s not their fault, and to have people around them so they can face the trauma together.”

The exhibition (only in Chinese) will run until July 31 at 480.0 Gender & Art Space, 1A, Tougha Mansion, 502-504 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei. Attendance is by appointment only.

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