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Taking back my power: Darklight presents The Fight Back

Darklight is proud to present The Fight Back: a multi-channel project in collaboration with boxing initiative Fight Forward and photographer Rebecca Naen, made possible with generous sponsorship from Fly. This is a project which has been months in the making – but for many involved, the story started years before…

One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Let that sink in for a moment. One in four. It’s a grim statistic, and one that is felt deeply by us at Darklight, a team of four women. It’s a stat that has touched one of our own. In January of this year, when most of us were hibernating and/or taking down our Christmas lights, our co-founder Sarah began an incredible journey of endurance and self-discovery which we have been privileged to witness. Alongside other women who have experienced domestic violence, Sarah embarked on an intensive physical training programme under the tutelage and encouragement of former GB boxing champion Lesley Sackey and her initiative Fight Forward. Designed to help women conquer their trauma and emerge as champions of their own lives, Lesley established Fight Forward as a way of sharing the healing power of boxing with those who need it the most.

The boxing camp came to an end in March, after three months of hardcore training, culminating in the women fighting three rounds in the ring, in front of hundreds of spectators. The atmosphere was completely electric and no doubt created an army of boxing converts.

low res sarah

We all know how difficult it can be to talk openly about hard times, so sharing their stories in front of thousands [Channel4 was there FFS] on fight night took real courage. Sarah said, ‘My own experience of domestic violence was an extremely difficult and scary time in my life, but something I’ve always brushed under the carpet as just “something that happened.”’ It was through the boxing that she, and others, found the bravery to open up, and in doing so have hopefully lit the path ahead for other women who may be feeling so very alone in their trauma.

Such a powerful cause deserves to be shared with as many people as possible, so it’s been our honour to collaborate with these absolute warriors, to produce this short film, a limited exhibition and stunning photo book [edition of 100]. We’ve called it The Fight Back, because that’s exactly what it is. A big ‘FUCK YOU’ to anyone who thinks they can make a victim out of women, a show of solidarity and encouragement, and a reclamation of the body.

This is our gift to them, a token of our gratitude.

Every participant had to dig deep within herself to unlock new levels of strength, both physical and emotional. Alongside Rebecca’s photographs, the book includes excerpts of some of the WhatsApps being sent on the group chat during the training regime which testify to just how potent the feelings were: ‘My heart is racing every day …’ and ‘… my cup has gone from cracked and empty to a super sized over flowing cup of love and joy.’

Rebecca told us how infectious the energy was: ‘I can’t tell you how much I’ve cried during this whole process. From our first call, to now months later, there have been tears. Sometimes floods of tears.’ But it’s not stopped her from wanting to take up boxing, which is testament to just how powerful an experience it’s been – even for someone who never put on the gloves [hard to click a shutter in boxing gloves tbf].

copy of 3n8a3631 rebecca naen
copy of 3n8a3669 rebecca naen

This has definitely been one of the most rewarding commissions we’ve made – there’s nothing like beautiful photography served up with a beautiful message. Shop the book here, but even if you only take one thing away, let it be this, from Rebecca: ‘You are stronger than you know, you are loved, you as you is all you need to be, and if someone is trying to take that away from you, know there is support.’


Photography, film and editing by Rebecca Naen
Produced and presented by Darklight 🖤

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