behind the grind
A community-based coffee cup venture
raising awareness around gender-based domestic violence
Between March 6 and April 3, beautifully illustrated recyclable coffee cups, sporting a powerful message, will hit cafes between Coledale and Wollongong. The brainchild of two friends from Balgownie, Sarika Gupta, 31, and Blaise Gassin, 25, Behind the Grind is a charitable concept created to educate the community about gender-based domestic violence using art as a vehicle for change and empowerment.
“I’m a doctor and have been exposed to domestic violence sporadically over the years, but I noticed that I was sub-par at recognising signs of DV from a professional standpoint,” admits Sarika. “It’s always been in the back of mind that there needed to be more awareness and understanding extended at a community level. Everyone needs to know about it, because the reality is, until someone presents with physical symptoms which need medical treatment, it doesn’t hit any service line ever.”
Sarika had floating ideas about how to start a conversation within the community. After sharing those thoughts with Blaise, an engineer, the pair set about bringing the concept to life, with a focus on breaking down stigmas surrounding the taboo topic of domestic violence – a topic “no-one really brings up at the dinner table.”
“We thought through coffee cups, and using art as a tool, it could help identify the issue in a way that connects with big numbers in the community,” Blaise explains. “We can raise awareness through the spread from Coledale to Wollongong but for people to connect with the issue it was important to tell first-hand stories. That’s where Sarika involved SAHSSI – a not-for-profit women’s refuge in Wollongong.”
Sarika interviewed four strong female victims of domestic violence, then turned those powerful stories into the impressive artwork that appears on the cups. The outcome is compelling and moving. “I wanted the four designs to be appealing enough so people are not offended by what they see but also random enough to spark their inquisition,” says Sarika.
“Often people think domestic violence is just physical assault, but it can be coercion, controlling finances, limiting friends,” adds Blaise. “Each illustration represents a different type of domestic violence and a different woman’s story, and how she’s overcome that struggle.”
The survivors interviewed were chosen after Sarika approached the director at SAHSSI. She was then put in touch with women who were at an appropriate place in their journey and ready to share their stories. “The women were really keen; they were motivated to talk about their own paths, and to help raise awareness about what they had gone through,” says Sarika.
“We are able to drive a connection with the audience if we highlight real people and real problems”, Blaise adds. “There is a higher chance of creating empathy and illustrating to a sufferer of DV that they are not alone in their circumstances.”
Recognising it can be tough to grab people’s attention with awareness campaigns if trying to take them too far away from their normal routine, the local pair realised for their strategy to be successful, it needed to infiltrate at an everyday level. “We relabelled domestic violence as Behind the Grind, hoping to remove all negative associations that DV carries, and bring the issue to light in a new way,” Blaise says.
“The coffee cups brings the message to the community without putting the onus on them to have to look into it in their time,” Sarika adds. “Coffee is part of the morning ritual.”
On the spine of the recyclable coffee cups there’s a website and a QR code, which connects users to the women’s stories on behindthegrind.net, as well as the SAHSSI logo.
The cups have now hit the northern suburbs – Earth Walker & Co, Moore Street General and Two Sisters Garage will distribute the cups between March 6 and Tuesday 12. Then in the following weeks, the impressively designed vessels will be available further south, with three cafes stocking the cups each week over the four weeks. The participating cafes are Flat White With One, Reay’s Place, Yarnsy’s, North Beach Kiosk, The Broken Drum, The Yard, Son of a Gun, Cafe Meni, Opus and Lili J. There’s also the option for the cafes to donate money to SAHSSI at the end of the project but it’s not obligatory.
“We hope the project encourages, empowers and educates victims and the wider community, one coffee at a time,” says Sarika and Blaise. “If there is one thing that you take from these cups, we ask that it is this – nobody is alone in their suffering. Life is hard, but together we can make it work.”
To read the victims stories and find participating cafes, head to www.behindthegrind.net
If you would like to learn more about SAHSSI or make a donation, head to www.sahssi.org.au
Where to get help: If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic violence, please call the domestic violence hotline on 1800 656 463.