For many people with learning disabilities, having the opportunity to talk about relationships, having a partner, sexuality and personal choice can be very difficult.
Back in 2004, a group of women with learning disabilities in Newcastle upon Tyne decided to do something about it. They had so many questions that, at that time, few carers or relatives were prepared to answer:
“Where do babies come from?”
“My periods have stopped, does this mean that I’m pregnant?”
“ What actually happens when you have sex?”
“How do you get a boyfriend?”
With the support of staff at arts organisation Them Wifies, the women used a range of drama and theatre activities to create Josephine: a unique, life size anatomically accurate cloth woman and a character in her own right. Josephine has a tummy that can opened up to reveal her reproductive organs, a thinking head, a baby, a detachable breast that can be felt for lumps and a thoughts and feelings bag containing a diary where Josephine records her life stories, such as an entry where she says she has been invited for a smear test and what to do about it. Workshops have focused on: sexuality, friendships, relationship choices, keeping safe (including safety on the internet), women’s health checks, periods, fertility and menopause.
Josephine has on gone on from strength to strength, delivering workshops to literally thousands of women across the UK. The success of the work led to the development of Jack, a cloth, anatomically accurate man with a prostate, testicle that can be felt for lumps accessories bag and a mobile phone he uses to text to his mates on. He too has a thinking head. Jack has delivered workshops to men with learning disabilities since 2011. Men have subsequently come up with their own set of questions that are pertinent to the development of Jack:
“When should I go to the doctors?”
“Can you have sex with someone and not go out with them?”
“How do you ask somebody out?”
“How can you tell if you can trust someone?”
The focus of workshops is on Josephine & Jack who are going on their own learning journey and discussing the issues in the sessions. Participants can learn about their own journey too and be supported in their own personal development.
Following on from the sad closure of Them Wifies in 2015, Josephine and Jack spent some time at Monkfish Productions, and given the success of the project they have recently moved to their own charity CIO: The Josephine & Jack Project, set up in 2016. They are looking forward to more future adventures working with and for people with learning disabilities to improve lives, wellbeing and choices around relationships.
Partnerships has been important to Josephine and Jack all along, and they are grateful for all the support they have received from their friends at Choice Support, who now have their own Josephine and Jack based with them in London (based on a social licensing arrangement). Not to mention the funding partners who have supported us and continue to do so. Josephine and Jack are always on the look out for new friends so to find out more go to our website.
Clare Morgan from the Josephine and Jack Project
*Josephine and Jack is a UK Trademark
The views expressed in the Supported Loving blog are not necessarily those of Choice Support.
Contact Dr Claire Bates for more about the Supported Loving Campaign.
Watch this video about how Josephine and Jack workshops at Choice Support are helping people we support to make healthy choices about their own lives.
Tags in this document: Supported Loving