Originally from Australia, Lorraine Lee grew up in Melbourne and has been in Shanghai for the past six years. Coming from a career background in luxury hospitality, for the past five years her interests have gradually shifted towards health, nutrition and wellness, recently launching a mental health and wellness platform Inward Living, with events happening throughout October to support Domestic Violence Awareness and Community Center Shanghai.
When did you start Inward?
I started working on Inward around January last year. Mental Health struggles have always been something that have had a significant presence in my life. When I was younger I dealt with trauma by blocking out difficult emotions and memories; I felt that things that had happened were too shameful and that they made me less worthy of a person. It wasn’t until mid last year that I realized the full impact of this avoidance, and I ended up having somewhat of a mental health crisis.
Luckily as an Australian citizen, and with the help of some amazing people and therapists, I was able to go back to Australia for trauma focused therapy to deal with things that happened 11 years prior. The experience was difficult but liberating, and I’ve since been able to heal and accept myself for all my experiences.
It also made me realize how many of us find it difficult to reach out or talk to others when we are struggling and the limited resources we have living abroad, particularly here in Shanghai. Mental health is something that affects each and every one of us; it’s really such an important thing we need to address.
How would you describe Inward?
Inward is a platform and safe space to acknowledge the full spectrum of emotions, particularly those that are difficult, that are a natural and healthy part of being human. It is a space for events, articles, sharing and community to promote and address mental health topics that affect us all.
What is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and how can people get behind it?
Domestic Violence Awareness Month falls in October each year. It is an opportunity to address an issue that is often not spoken about enough but happens much more frequently than many of us realize.
Domestic violence affects people of all cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, genders and sexual orientation. Domestic violence is not only physical violence but can also be emotional, psychological and financial in nature, all of which can cause significant damage to the health of individuals affected.
As quoted by Carrie Jones, Director of Counseling at The Community Center Shanghai, in her Inward article:
“It is important that as a community we make an effort to be educated about domestic violence and related issues. Keep an eye out for those around you. If you are concerned about someone’s safety and wellbeing, gently check in with them. You can provide support by being a trusted listener and can help point victims to professional resources and support.
“It can be easy and tempting to be judgmental of a person who remains in an abusive relationship and to say something along the lines of, ‘If I was in a situation like that, I wouldn’t put up with it for an instant, I’d leave immediately!’ However, it is almost never that simple and easy. In fact, leaving an abusive relationship can be incredibly complex and dangerous, especially for expats who may be dependent on the abuser for a visa.
“Unfortunately, the violence does not always end when an individual leaves or tries to end the relationship. Rather, it is not uncommon for the violence to intensify as the abuser fears a loss of control over the victim.
“As a community, we need to be careful not to put unfair blame on victims due to assumptions that they choose to stay in abusive relationships. In reality, stopping the violence is not as simple as the victim choosing to leave, but is a matter of him/her being able to safely leave, the abuser choosing to stop the abuse, and the broader system (law enforcement, courts, etc.) holding perpetrators accountable.”
What should someone do if they are a victim of domestic violence?
Talk to someone. Let someone you trust know you do not feel safe. Whether you choose to confide in a friend, a family member or a professional, do reach out to someone. It also can be helpful to create a safety plan that outlines what you will do when you sense you are in danger.
If you can’t leave the home or stay in a separate place from the perpetrator, consider physical arrangements and precautions you can take at home to protect yourself. If possible, keep a phone, charger and important documents readily available.
Here in Shanghai, at least for expats, we unfortunately do not have specialized domestic violence resources like you might find in other countries (specific hotlines, shelters and other services), but you can find help and support by calling Lifeline (400 821 1215) for free, confidential, anonymous support or by arranging to see a professional counselor through CCS or other organizations.
If you are in immediate danger or an emergency, call the police or go to a hospital emergency room. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, don’t suffer in silence and isolation; reach out for help.
What events do you have going on for Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
This Sunday, October 11 we have a special brunch from 11am to 3pm at Tomatito in Xintiandi to raise funds for Community Center Shanghai. Donations will be used to provide heavily discounted and pro-bono therapy to survivors of Domestic Violence and abuse.
We have already had some amazing chef’s tables by Koen of Tomatito and with the Heritage by Madison team in honor of a dinner that Austin had planned on hosting for the cause.
The final fundraiser chef’s table we have is with Sergio Moreno and Hardeep Somal and will be at Commune Social on October 27. People can find out more by following Inward (scan QR below).
Are there any other projects you are involved in?
I am a proud and active volunteer for Lifeline Across China. They provide a crucial resource to the community, and I am thankful for the work they do everyday.
For more on Inward and the Domestic Violence Awareness Month events scan the QR code below:
[All images courtesy of Lorraine Lee/Inward]