Lorraine Lee on Sexual Trauma & Mental Health Awareness

By Ned Kelly, October 1, 2021

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Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Lorraine Lee has lived in Shanghai for the past seven years. Coming from a career background in luxury hospitality, for the past six years her focus and interests have shifted towards advocacy around mental health awareness and trauma. Last year she launched mental health and wellness platform Inward Living, and this month sees Inward’s 2021 Awareness Campaign. We caught up with her to find out more.

Why did you start Inward Living?
I launched Inward in October 2020, exactly a year ago at the beginning of International Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My work has always been quite personal to me, and a reflection of where I am in my life, the experiences I have gone through and what I feel I can share with others.

At the beginning of 2019 I experienced a mental health crisis in which I found myself having a mental health break down, struggling daily with suicidal thoughts and severe depression that was triggered from a conversation with a close friend around sexual assault and abuse.

In hindsight, the conversation had triggered many unresolved memories of sexual trauma I had experienced when younger, that had been suppressed through years of my own avoidance and unhealthy coping behaviors.

Being an Australian citizen, I was fortunate enough to travel home where I was able to access professional mental health support and trauma focused therapy, and fortunately provided clarity and a path forward, being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Through therapy, I learned that many unhealthy behaviors and relationship struggles I had experienced since the sexual abuse were linked to what had happened to me, including an eating disorder I struggled with for many years, abusive relationships, excessive drinking and deep insecurities around my identity and self-worth.

I sought professional help so many years later, at the age of 31, because I had to. But I really believe that had I not felt so much shame at the time, and if I had known there were people to support me when I was 19, I could potentially have avoided a lot of the compounded struggles that I went through later on. Through therapy I’ve been able to face my struggles and remove the shame I felt for so many years.

I started Inward as a result of my own experiences, as a way for me to advocate for the importance of seeking support for whatever people are going through, and to reduce the stigma that people often feel around mental health and personal struggles.

How would you describe Inward Living?
Inward is a hybrid lifestyle and advocacy brand that is dedicated to eradicating shame around experiences of adversity, trauma and life struggles, whilst raising awareness around the importance of authentic expression, mental health and self-care.

Inward’s mission is to give a voice to issues that we often feel a lot of shame around and to encourage individuals and communities to better support each other and themselves in kinder, more compassionate ways and to help destroy the stigma that often surrounds experiences of adversity and struggle.

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What is Inward’s 2021 Awareness Campaign?
Last year, with the help of so many amazing people, we were able to raise RMB125,000 that was donated to Community Center Shanghai to be used for free and subsidized counseling support to survivors of domestic violence and trauma. To this date, over 200 hours of subsidized counseling have been given to people needing this resource.

On October 1, 2021 we launched our Awareness Campaign around sexual trauma and intimate partner violence, in the hopes of raising awareness and also appealing to the community for donations to help create this important resource.

This year, our focus is on expanding free and subsidized support to include medical OB-GYN assistance for sexual trauma and intimate partner abuse survivors. We have teamed up with Ferguson Health, who are an absolutely amazing team of empathetic, kind and trauma informed doctors, nurses and staff who will help to provide a safe environment for survivors to be able to receive OB-GYN support and testing for STIs, unintended pregnancy and other physical impacts that can occur as a result of these experiences.

Funds will also be donated once again to the Community Centre Shanghai, who will provide a free counseling session to survivors in the hope of preventing further mental health issues. If people need, but are unable to afford ongoing counseling, they will also be able to access the subsidized counseling fund in which donations towards this campaign also support.

We also have amazing awareness partners including Dr. Bojun Hu from United Family Healthcare who is in the process of developing support groups for survivors that will likely be available in 2022.

How can people support you?
People can support our campaign by sharing our campaign page from our Inward WeChat site, by providing safe and non judgmental support to anyone that may open up to you about their own experiences.

And, of course, people can donate towards our cause, which is ultimately what is going to allow us to provide these resources – 100% of all donations will go towards Ferguson Health and Community Centre Shanghai for this purpose.

What events do you have going on?
We’ve been really blessed to have people in the community volunteer to support us. Michelle Garnaut and Chef Hamish Waddel of M On The Bund have generously donated their time and venue, helping us to host a large fundraising dinner on October 14 in partnership with sponsors Aaron Marsich of Tribal Brands Asia, Alex Caillard of Pudao Wines, designer Charlotta Gandolfo, Kaci Crane, David Crane from Fisher and Paykel and Natalie Lowe and Siu Tang of The Orangeblowfish.

We will also have fundraising events and initiatives from now until the end on the year in partnership with other generous partners including Klay Modern Indian Eatery, Highline, Element Fresh and Egg. People can keep up to date with our upcoming events by following the Inward WeChat account.

What can be the fallout from sexual and intimate violence, and how can it be best dealt with?
To quote Carrie Jones, Director of Counseling from Community Centre Shanghai:

Just as sexual violence takes many different forms, so too do survivors’ reactions to the violence.  Reactions vary based not only on the details of the assault itself, but also based on the individual’s personality, past exposure to sexual violence, degree of social support and access to resources for help, etc.

Reactions that are not uncommon in survivors of sexual violence include:

  • Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), flashbacks, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and substance abuse

  • Feeling hyper-vigilant and on-edge, being unable to relax, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Avoiding people or places that remind one of the assault or abuse

  • Withdrawal from relationships, friendships, an increased sense of isolation

  • Worry about disclosing for fear of judgment or disbelief

  • Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault

  • Sense of blame or shame over the body’s physiological reaction to the assault

  • Concerns or questions about sexual orientation

  • Pregnancy or STDs or anxiety about these

If you have experienced intimate sexual violence, it can be very helpful to seek professional help (therapy) to help you heal. If someone you care about has experienced sexual violence, the most important thing you can do is listen without judgment and believe them.

On a broader level, community support and awareness are crucial. Social norms that condone violence, misuse of power, the subjugation of women all contribute to the occurrence of sexual violence. It is up to each of us to speak up and challenge these norms.


Watch a video about Inward Living's Campaign with Ferguson Health and CCS to create safe resources for survivors (VPN off):


For more on the 2021 Awareness Campaign click here or scan the QR code:

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For the Inward Living official account scan this QR code:

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To contact Lorraine Lee directly scan this QR:

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[All images courtesy of Lorraine Lee/Inward Living]

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