Words by Smiley Team
Two women have taken to the road in a van to spread positive messages about consent and recovering from trauma.
Dr Nina Burrowes and Cynthia Ellis are co-founders of The Consent Collective, an organisation founded in 2016 to help communities talk about sexual harassment, sexual violence and domestic abuse.
In September 2021, the pair decided to travel around the country to be able to visit universities, colleges and organisations that are further afield.
“The decision to take our work on the road is partly a story about lockdown," says Nina. "In March 2021, we started walking the sections of The South Downs Way that were close to our home. Being in nature felt so good after being inside. It felt healing. So much of our work is about healing.
“Now here we are, on the road, driving up and down the country in our van that is covered in the symbols that represent our work. We're visiting survivor organisations, holding a circle around what it means to heal from injustice, meeting lots of new people.” The Consent Collective hopes to eventually open their own retreat centre in the countryside for survivors.
Their journey began when they left Brighton, and have since visited London, Lampeter, St Andrews, Buxton, Birmingham, The Cotswolds and West Wittering.
“This trip is so many things," says Cynthia. "It's an adventure, and as with all adventures that means some bits are exhilarating, some bits are really not fun, but ultimately we are learning and growing on every step of the way.
“This trip also feels like a way of walking our own talk. Our work has never been a 9-5 job, it's our passion. This trip has given that passion a different energy. There is a natural movement to travelling, to connecting with people and then moving on. After two years of online meetings it feels good to be out and about and connecting with people.”
The Consent Collective works with organisations and charities to deliver expert support and advice for survivors of abuse, as well as delivering talks about consent in universities and colleges.
They operate Consent Collective TV, a platform that hosts a range of content including trauma-informed videos that can be used to support people living with the impact of sexual harm and relationship abuse.
“One of our favourite moments is when we're talking to people who work or volunteer in the sexual violence sector about our plans to open a retreat centre," says Nina. "Our sector doesn't have spaces like that.
“It feels very fitting that leaving our home, getting in our van, and driving into the unknown is our chosen path to creating something. We're looking forward to sharing it with others but we're not in a rush. This journey that we're on now is very special. We want to learn everything we can and meet as many people as possible because it's going to take a community to make this happen.”
GET INVOLVED: To find out more about The Consent Collective, visit their website.
CHARITY SUPPORT: If you’ve been a victim of abuse, you can visit Victim Support for help and advice. Always call 999 (UK) if you’re in immediate danger.