A Safe Listening Circle for Victims of Violence and Abuse




Civil Society

By Elsa Marie D’Silva and Supreet K’Singh

The pandemic has affected the world broadly and in different ways – GDL members have had to cancel projects, put them on hold or reorganise them for the time being. In order to ensure that the work of GDL members can continue, especially in civil society organisations that support vulnerable groups or other groups in need, the GDL has promoted projects through the Solidarity Fund. What has become of it, who has taken part in it and how has it helped?

This is the third article of our Solidarity Fund blog series where we will publish reports at irregular intervals on the blog. You can also take look at the first entry where Camila Comide shares her experiences at the Gender Alliance and illustrates why gender is way more than just women’s rights and the second entry where GDL member Benon Kayemba provides insights into his solar light project to improve security and provide lighting for children in Uganda. 

Inspired by the Solidarity Driven Call, GDL Member Elsa Marie D’Silva and her colleague Supreet K’Singh facilitated a safe space within a SafeCircle for victims of domestic violence in India to be heard and supported. The report was written by Supreet K’Singh.

SafeCircle is a project facilitated by the Red Dot Foundation of GDL Member Elsa Marie D’Silva and its flagship programme SafeCity. With the help of the GDL’s Solidarity Fund, they were able to host a four-week programme to support and train survivors of trauma and violence.

Supreet’s and Elsa’s report:

From 19 April to 10 May 2021, we hosted the first SafeCircle Facilitator’s Training Programme with the support of the Global Diplomacy Lab’s Solidarity Fund. Elsa and I had 15 participants attend the training programme, and we were thrilled to certify 13 facilitators. The four-week programme was conducted in English and Hindi, and all trainees were provided with a SafeCircle Facilitator’s Handbook to ensure they maintain the authenticity and impact of their sessions. These facilitators have since been conducting SafeCircles in their communities in English and Hindi.

SafeCircle is a safe listening circle for survivors of violence and abuse to find support. The Circle starts with guided meditation, voicing predominant emotions and then a session of reflection on questions that surface during the introductions. We end with every member deciding for themselves smaller goals on self-care and specific areas of concern to address.

In keeping with the high demand for safe spaces for victims of trauma and violence, we decided to train eligible interested people to be facilitators for SafeCircle in their communities.

“I became a part of this great safe space of undeniably strong people just when I needed the ‘nurturing and nourishing’ of my spirit.” (Anonymous)

Violence against women is a global public health issue that becomes a threat to life during emergencies. And that is exactly what happened last year. The lockdown during the COVID‑19 pandemic provided more opportunities for perpetrators of domestic violence, and India saw a multifold increase in violence against women, whether physical, emotional, financial, sexual or verbal. Caught in small physical spaces 24/7, with little or no respite from a downslide in finances, illnesses and an ecosystem of frustration and piling up anger and despair, women and children faced the direct brunt.

At SafeCity, we aim to make cities safer by encouraging equal access to public spaces for everyone, especially women, through crowdsourced data and technology. In our aim to facilitate a safer world for women and girls so that they can live up to their full potential, it was imperative that we respond to the emergency related to Gender Based Violence during the pandemic.

“Without any doubt, SafeCircle brings out renewed hope and faith continuously for me. I would like to credit each one on this circular table for their maturity, strength through their own experiences and most importantly their ability to extend support and compassion to the other (…).” (Anonymous)

Elsa and I realised that it was impossible to reach out to every victim/survivor, and so we worked on creating a safe space where they could join in, share their experiences, and find support whilst learning from others what solutions they could take back to their lives. Being a counsellor and yoga acharya, I used my experience to create two hours of guided/facilitated safe space for all who needed to be heard and supported. Thus, SafeCircle was born.

Through these listening circles, survivors have found a community of support, where they can share strategies to address and prevent violence and offer solidarity to peers. Since May 2020, we have been providing consistent psychosocial support to over 25 survivors. The process is therapeutic for many, and we have seen a significant change in the lives of all who have been involved and who have impacted their communities through their training.

“(…) I am grateful to be a part of this wonderful network of support that has been and continues to be a great anchor in my life. And another bonus – friendship! (…)” (Anonymous)


About the authors:

Elsa Marie D’Silva is a social entrepreneur with interests in the fields of social and personal development, peace, aviation and mental health, and she is also the founder of the Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces.

Supreet K’Singh is a writer, film director, gender activist, personal counsellor and yoga acharya as well as a partner at Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and conducts workshops to create awareness about sexual violence and creates campaigns to engage women and men in solutions.

Published on September 30, 2021.

Image credit: Safe Circle

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