Play planned to address violence against Cape Breton women

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SYDNEY — More than 30 local women were interviewed and recorded Saturday as research for "Staging Voices for Change," a play that is intended to help shed light on violence against Cape Breton women.

Nicole MacDougall, lead researcher for Staging Voices for Change, left, is planning a play to help discuss violence against women issues in Cape Breton. She's shown with Kristen MacLeod, one of the discussion facilitators. Submitted by Nicole MacDougall

The final of three research sessions took place at the Every Woman's Centre as part of the project, which is the initiative of Cape Breton University graduate Nicole MacDougall, who graduated with an honours degree in English and a theatre of arts certificate.

"Being a theatre practitioner, I kind of thought 'What can I bring to the table?'" said MacDougall, the project's lead researcher.

"I think a play is just a different way to talk about things, as opposed to just bringing up the statistics. I was just talking to someone about how people sometimes shut down about that because it gets depressing really fast."

The idea to write a play about violence against women in Cape Breton follows her work as director of the "The Vagina Monologues" at CBU for two years.

She consulted CBU research officer Jodi McDavid, who worked with her on that production, and was advised to embark upon the extensive research project that concluded Saturday.

People invited to the sessions were asked if they feel safe in their community and what issues they think need to be addressed.

Other issues discussed during the sessions were housing access, drug issues, and silence in the community.

"The one thing that did surprise me was people's openness to talk about it, so I really anticipated at the beginning that would be difficult to approach women about this. It was still a very difficult thing sometimes for people to talk about, but people when you gave them an opportunity to talk, there was a lot of anger and a lot of passion and a lot of people ready to see change. That was really exciting."

Some of the women had stories to tell that were rooted in violence, while others had seen violence in their community, she said.

"I'm hoping it will bring people together — like-minded individuals who are also upset. If you are in isolation thinking about this, it gets really discouraging very quickly. I'm hoping that if we can bring people together to think about making change, then we can figure out ways to spread that out to the community."

The plan was to put what was learned together before the spring or summer, but MacDougall acknowledges that will be a big task given all that she has heard.

"I'm not sure what it is going to look like right now. I originally thought I knew what I was going to write it, but now I've gotten such interest that it might turn into a collective piece with other people partaking."

She said she'll read other people's research as part of the project and will also produce an overall report to accompany the play.

"It's really easy to talk about the issues, but you get really upset and depressed about it, so we are trying to end the discussion on what can we do for change. The play is the main product, but in the winter we are going to come out with a report that says 'We talked to 30 women and this is what they thought.'"

 

 

Organizations: Cape Breton University

Geographic location: Cape Breton

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