By Amy McMurtrie

    Have you ever thought about what it means to fight for your life? This is the kind of journey that Donna Lyon and her team at Left Write Hook think about constantly. 

    Left Write Hook is a project which breaks the silence on childhood sexual assault through ‘fighting back’, a metaphor symbolising not only fighting against perpetrators, but what the process of recovery looks like, which as Donna explains is often a daily anguish. ‘It feels like a constant fight to have a will to live, a fight to tear through the shame, the toxic belief systems … it just sits and permeates in… my skin’. 

    Left Write Hook is an 8-week in-depth journey of self-discovery. A peer led program that infuses writing and boxing to transform the lives of women and gender diverse survivors of childhood sexual assault.

    Left Write Hook, now a charity with a not -for-profit status, was established as a grass roots program in 2019, which Donna ran from her local gym. Witnessing the positive impacts that the program was having, Donna became motivated to explore what else was possible. For the next iteration of the project she enlisted a team of diverse experts to create a research led project. The research project saw the outcome of an 8-week peer led workshop program, a documentary film and a book. 

    As the team was about to commence the project in 2020, the storm that was COVID hit and the program had to quickly pivot online. Despite these limitations, in just eight weeks the research indicated that six out of the eight participants had a reduction in stress, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, alongside an increase in personal agency and resilience. The results were clear, Left Write Hook was extremely beneficial for survivors.

    One of the key intentions of the program is to empower survivors to find their personal agency. Through the facilitation of writing workshops participants are provided with the opportunity to emotionally process aspects of their trauma. They are subsequently supported to physically fight and release the disease from their bodies through boxing tuition. By reframing the process as one which is active, in the role of a ‘fighter’, there is an opportunity to focus on strength, safety and control. The very qualities the participants lost through sexual assault, can lead them to a place of empowerment. 

    The program suits people who have existing support, understand their trauma and how it impacts them, and are ready to work within a group. Donna says there is a risk in talking about abuse. ‘It can be destabilising,’ she says, hence the clear eligibility criteria for entry. She’s also keen to emphasise that this program is not a substitute for therapy or mental health support. Participants can be at any level of fitness, with no previous experience of writing or boxing. 

    Programs run from Footscray and Bentleigh.
    If you are interested in learning more about the program or donating funds to support this community-based recovery program, you can find out more through the webpage. 

    The Left Write Hook documentary film will be premiering in 2024. 

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