Viv Gordon is the Artistic Director of 'Cutting Out' Part performance, part installation, part collective act of resistance, Cutting Out tells Viv's 1 in 11 million story. The story of Viv's hands (from abuse to activism) happens in a co-created installation of paper dolls holding hands in solidarity, bearing witness to 11 million adult UK survivors of Child Sex Abuse. Viv's performance is taking place at The Lighthouse in Poole on Thursday 7th October at 8pm, tickets available here:

Cutting Out is a show about community connection and belonging for survivors of child sex abuse. It tells my story through the lens of my hands from abuse to activism. It is a call to arms (hands?) asking survivors and allies to reach out across all the barriers that keep us isolated and silent. Child sex abuse is still such a secret experience. There are good reasons why people are uncomfortable talking about it - it is one of the last great taboos. Survivors fear rejection, disbelief and being labelled as mad and the wider community would rather bury its head in the sand than face up to the terrifying scale and impact of abuse - an epidemic that runs like an undercurrent through our society shaping people’s experiences of themselves, each other and the world.

One of the themes in the show is dissociation - a common experience during trauma - where the brain shuts down under extreme stress like an overloaded electrical circuit cutting out. It's a natural and helpful survival mechanism that for many survivors becomes a way of coping with life in a world where our most formative experiences are never talked about. Dissociation is often pathologised by mental health services as something wrong with us but my view is that it's a clever way of getting the hell out of unbearable situations. It strikes me that dissociation around child sex abuse is a wider collective experience too - as a culture we find it very difficult to engage with something so devastating and so threatening to the our understanding of the world as a kind and safe place .

Most people don’t know for example that an estimated 11 million adults in the UK are child sex abuse survivors according to a 2012 NSPCC report. How can we not know this? Why isn’t this headline news everyday? Consider the (very justified) outrage about Sarah Everard’s murder at the hands of a serving police officer. This experience of being unable to trust the very people who are supposed to look after us is one that is horribly familiar to child sex abuse survivors. But where is collective outrage? For example, last month, Scott Walker was given a whole life sentence for murdering his step daughter Bernadette Walker after she disclosed that he had sexually abused her over the previous 7 years but there was very little cultural noise about this. Why?

Child sex abuse is a very lonely experience. Living as a survivor in a society that doesn’t want to know is even more lonely. It seems to me that THE most urgent project for survivors is to build community, visibility and collective voice. If we look back through history all social change has been led by marginalised communities coming together to represent their interests. There are so many barriers to building that community - so many of us feel isolated, so many have never told anyone, and so many have been called liars or been threatened to keep us silent. Lots of us are carrying guilt and shame for other people’s terrible behaviour even though we know cognitively it was not our fault, we didn’t do anything wrong and we are victims of a terrible crime.

The question running through Cutting Out is how we build that community. Does it help to know we are one of 11 million similar people all struggling with similar issues, similar injustices and marginalisations? The show is part of a wider arts activism project to cut out 11 million paper dolls holding hands to co-create a huge installation in the vein of a national memorial for lost innocence or a collective witnessing and statement that we are here. We’re asking survivors and allies to join in and help us by cutting out dolls at home and posting them on social media - details of how to join the campaign are here: Join the Campaign

We know that it can be scary to come and see a show with these themes - we are worried we might feel triggered or trapped in an experience we don’t want to stay with. For anyone thinking about coming along it’s worth knowing that we have listening support available at the show and that it is totally fine to leave the theatre during a performance if you find you don’t want to be there. Generally the shows are emotional - people laugh and cry and the work is made in such a way to metaphorically hold audiences' hands as we go on that journey together. It's also important to know that the show is about survival more than abuse itself and the focus is on change and social justice. The feedback we get from survivors is that it is an uplifting and empowering experience.

“I was struck from the outset by the beauty of this work, the delicacy, fragility, vitality, effervescence and its power and capacity for healing” - CSA Survivor

“Raw, passionate truth [told with] hope, humanity and humour” - CSA Survivor

No pressure! The most important thing about surviving is to do whatever we want to do - we had all our choices taken away as children and now we get to decide what’s right for us.

Sending love and solidarity

Viv xx

Viv Gordon - Artistic Director (

I am a theatre maker, survivor activist & arts and mental health campaigner, and my work is a campaign to nurture voice, visibility and community for survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). I am incredibly proud of the bold work we do - I am not interested in pity or being worthy or earnest. As Artistic Director, I aim to make punky, kick ass work that doesn’t pull its punches, that entertains, moves, changes hearts and minds and most importantly reduces isolation and shame within our community. I campaign for access and inclusion in the arts for artists and audiences with mental health needs - I speak at conferences and events, as well as offer training and consultancy with individuals and organisations. Previously, I was an Agent for Change with Salisbury International Arts Festival (2017) and have led work with marginalised adults and families since 2003 as Artistic Director of Mean Feet Dance.

Cutting Out is supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England with additional support from Strike a Light, Exeter Northcott Theatre, Strode Theatre, Prema and Lighthouse Theatre. 

Find out more about Viv Gordon and our work by watching the following TEDx video: