Secrets Worth Sharing

Secrets Worth Sharing

Secrets Worth Sharing: How to Talk about Child Sexual Abuse

This book is to help non-abusing adults and teens to have supportive conversations with people who have experienced sexual abuse as a child. I have included stories from others victims and survivors*, as well as guidance from clinical psychologists, councillors and healthcare professionals. Please feel free to read, download and share!

Period Emojis

Period Emojis

A set of emojis to subtly communicate when you are menstruating at work.

Client: Flo Health

The Challenge

The problem

Not enough people are talking about how periods affect them at work .

The outcome

A set of 4 downloadable emojis and guidebook which can be used at workplaces and on Slack statuses for people to talk about their periods at work. 

How it works 

I worked with Flo on a campaign to use emoji as a more approachable and opt-in alternative for menstruating people to talk about periods at work. The emoji come with a guidebook which detail the context in which the emoji are intended to be used. There is also advice for people who don’t menstruate about supporting those on their period.

Research and development

  • Context and restrictions


    Context

    A few months ago, I told 11,000 people at work that I was on my period. 

    It’s normal for me to throw up from pain on my period and I found myself uncontrollably cramping during meetings. I had just come back from being ill, and worried it would look like I was ‘slacking’.

    I didn’t feel comfortable starting this conversation in the team room, so I used a red drop emoji and set it as my ‘Slack’ status. It was my way of saying “I’m in pain, please be mindful and recognise that I might not have the energy to deal with some tasks.” For me, this was essential information for me to do my job, but it’s a very personal choice.

    It ended up sparking many conversations across the company, with some colleagues expressing they too had the same experience, some who were unsure about the approach, and others who didn’t have periods wanting to know how best to support. The conversation also expanded into thinking about other hormonal changes, such as IVF and menopause.

    I raised this during International Women’s day because menstrual anxiety can affect all people who have periods/PMS and can still impact our lives profoundly. And remember periods can affect more people than women as well – including nonbinary, intersex people, and trans men. 

    The response went viral on LinkedIn and started many conversations about periods in the workplace.

    Who should have been included in this work, but was not. 

    People who work in settings where they don’t have online communication platforms, such as those in the hospitality and acting industries. 

  • The Impact

  • The Impact


    Quotes

    “The instinct to see it as oversharing is actually a reflection of the stigma and taboo associated with it. That in itself opens a can of worms, but these worms need to be released if we ever want to achieve true gender parity. Good on you Sophia Luu for having the courage to raise this.”

    “Thanks for posting. It’s important to understand how hormones affect many, including those going through IVF and menopause. I’m sure there are many other treatments where the side effects just wreck havoc on your bodies’ ability to regulate their hormones for women and men.”

    “Hey Sophia! First, sorry you’re in pain – that sucks especially while trying to work… well done on the post, always good to normalize these things. While as a trans woman I don’t menstruate, I do get PMS symptoms and definitely have felt invisible pressure to not bring that up to teams so they don’t doubt my general productivity, etc.”

    There are many subjects which are traditionally thought of as taboo which severely impact whether someone feels they can perform well at work. A solution that supports people on their period also works for those who, for whatever reason, might want their colleagues to know that they need to take a break or turn their camera off for a day. This is particularly also in the case of chronic illness and other mental health situations.

  • Results


    Downloaded and used commonly in many companies, including Flo Health, McKinsey and even Slack themselves!

  • If I could do this again...


    I don’t believe in a perfect solution. What I can do though, is reflect on how to make things better in hindsight. Given the digital focus for this project, I didn’t consider other online platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The emojis were only able to be applied on Slack, and so were not compatible for workplaces using other software. If I could do this again, I would consider that more.

  • Download the Emojis 😀

    People and press

    Comics

    Comics

    A selection of comics!

    Keep it in the Family

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    Thirty-two months after speaking out and one court case later, my extended family finally agree to discuss what happened – and what happens next.

    In this autobiographical zine, a very private conversation is bought to a very public domain.

    Grandma’s Stories, or, “How to Make Friends with (mostly) Everyone”

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    Bold and positive

    Talking about child abuse

    Talking about child abuse

    What methods can we use to get people to begin talking about child abuse?

    The challenge

    The problem

    Statistics will tell you that 1/10 children are sexually abused before they turn 18. The reality is probably much higher, as a majority of people who have experienced child sexual abuse are unlikely to report it and tell anyone. 

    There are a number of key issues which prevent offenders being caught early, as well as providing support to victims, and these mostly boil down to communication. Some of the biggest issues include: 

    • Talking about child abuse
    • Making children aware about child abuse
    • Finding someone you can trust to confide in  
    • Getting the right support from charities and authorities 
    • Being aware of the signs of child abuse and communicating the dangers 

    I am particularly interested in the discourses surrounding people who experience child abuse in ethnice minority communities, and the specific problems that they can face, including: 

    • More likely to face stigma
    • Less likely to be supported by authorities and charities 
    • Counselling is less tailored to their needs.

    Research and Development

  • Method 1: Comic Books


    I made a comic book focusing on my personal experiences with childhood sexual abuse, and the often very difficult and convoluted journey of ‘coming out’. This piece was a finalist for the ‘Laydeez do Comics’ award 2019. 

    Blurb: 

    Two years of child sex abuse. A decade of silence.

    Thirty-two months after speaking out and one court case later, my extended family finally agree to discuss what happened – and what happens next.

    In this autobiographical zine, a very private conversation is bought to a very public domain. 

    Who is it for? 

    Adults interested in the effects of child abuse. 

    Why does it work?

    • Not a lot of reading involved 
    • Can read privately through the medium of a book 
    • Highlights the visual signs, not just what people verbally communicate

    What could be improved?: 

    Weave more general points into the story, such as who to go to for help and why this is so common. In this way, it is more relatable to people. 

    Quotes

    “It really surprises me that you experienced child abuse because you’re successful. And now I don’t know how I feel about what I just said”

    A friend, 20s.

     

    The Insights

    People do not equate success and trauma. If someone is perceived to be successful, then they are less likely to be included in conversations about traumatic childhoods. 

  • Method 2: Posters


    A poster of ‘ways to talk to children about child abuse’. The points involve: 

    • Create a comfortable environment: This might not always be at home but must be private
    • Be approachable: This is a serious topic, but the child is not to blame. Make sure there is an open, non-judgemental relationship so the child can confide in you. 
    • Clarify boundaries: A child is sexually aware from as young as two. If they don’t feel comfortable, chances are it’s inappropriate. Help them to see that others have boundaries too. 
    • Make no assumptions: Talk, but also listen. How is the child reacting, and what isn’t being said? An abused child will be used to keeping secret and might not open up straight away. Establish trust. 
    • There might not be signs: Simply put: a child might not be ready to tell you their story. This can take years, and often a child will not show obvious behaviour changes. Talking is key. 
    • Abusers can be anyone – including other children: It’s always happening to someone else – until it isn’t. 90% of abusers know the child – either as a trusted friend or a family member. Children can also play games like ‘doctors’ which could lead to unknowingly inappropriate behaviour. 

    Who is it for? 

    People scrolling through instagram, those looking for some quick nudges about how they can help. 

    Why does it work?

    • Not a lot of reading involved 
    • Friendly design so feels less intimidating 

    What could be improved?: 

    Provide a text copy for those who are visually impaired or use a screen reader so that they are not left out of the conversation. 

    Quotes

    “Thank you for putting such serious information in a friendly style. I think it makes people want to engage with it more.”

    A friend, 20s.

     

    Method 3: ‘The Secrets worth sharing book’ 

    This book is to help non-abusing adults and teens to have supportive conversations with people who have experienced sexual abuse as a child. I have included stories from others victims and survivors*, as well as guidance from clinical psychologists, councillors and healthcare professionals. Please feel free to read, download and share!

    Quotes

    “I love the drawings of hijabis everywhere, because I never see images of people like me in picture books. This book is beautifully designed and makes me feel heard and seen in a way I wasn’t expecting.”

    Victim of Childhood sexual abuse

  • The Book