The story behind the Community Coffee Cup venture

Last year, SAHSSI received a contact message from an artist and doctor seeking our support on a project she was about to embark on, her name was Dr Sarika Gupta. Sarika told SAHSSI that she had researched services in the Illawarra that she could contact for domestic and family violence project support and this was the first she was aware of SAHSSI.

Sarika met with our SAHSSI Outreach Team Leader to discuss ideas and seek out support for the project. After careful consideration of women’s privacy and the need to ensure trauma informed support, SAHSSI jumped at the opportunity to support and link suitable courageous women. SAHSSI is grateful to the women who were willing to support this venture, and the story telling that resulted. Throughout the story telling journey, all drafts of the pictures and the related stories were shared with the women by Sarika, via SAHSSI, to ensure their translations were met, their privacy was maintained and they were still able to support the project.

Towards the end of the project, SAHSSI were also very honoured to meet the other half of the project duo, Blaise who was busy developing and designing the website, the all-important portal of communication and information linking the coffee cup artwork to the stories and the resources.

When SAHSSI asked Sarika and Blaise why they embarked on this venture this is what they shared. “Behind the Grind is an engaging and enabling project.

The ethos for the project came about after Sarika had experience with relationship abuse in her medical profession. On reflection of some cases, she realised that failure to recognise the signs and symptoms of abuse extended much further than just her personal experiences. Investigating further, she found there seemed to be a systemic inability of many people to recognise such prompts.

Blaise’s connections with domestic violence don’t resonate with his professional work life, however an upbringing under a father in the police force has opened his eyes to the shackles that domestic violence can impose on its victims. He has concluded that the far reaching consequences are not limited to the sufferers, but also those trying to assist.

Discussion between us brought a plethora of ideas about domestic violence, and, acting as sounding boards for each other, we decided we would commit to making a difference. The project can be surmised as a combination of personal motivations as above, and a genuine desire to help. We are both young professionals in a changing and developing world and consider it important to invest today for a better tomorrow.

We have broken down the stigma of domestic violence by rebranding it ‘Behind the Grind’. In doing so, we remove the negative associations domestic violence carries. We teamed up with SAHSSI to explore real people and real stories. We are hopeful this inspires empathy and generates a connection with the audience. Coffee cups offer a sound mechanism to drive the train of awareness.

All the ideas have been dreamt up through discussion between us and FaceTime calls interstate in between work and travel. The project has been a very rewarding and unique learning experience, and we are looking forward to its launch on Wednesday 6th March. The project coincides with the launch of International Women’s Week on the 8th March”

What do SAHSSI think of the final product?

Apart from the opportunity to share stories and the inspiring and colourful translation into coffee cup artworks and the communicating website that are ALL EQUALLY AMAAAAZING, we think it’s really important to point out that Sarika and Blaise’s project has not only shared stories with the community in a creative and compassionate way but they have really committed to raising awareness by educating the community on the different types of domestic and family violence including some of the frightening statistics. With Sarika’s background in health, her approach with women when telling their stories was extremely trauma informed and empathetic, providing a supportive space for voices to be heard and to advocate for change. Sarika and Blaise did all of their own research, found the means to fund the whole project, developed the website and created the coffee shop relationships and partners, they did not seek any support from SAHSSI in all of this. So much work and thought (for a side project on top of busy schedules) has been put into this project.

What do the domestic violence survivors and story tellers think of the final product?

“The whole project was amazing and the way it finally went on the website – I have always said that nobody thinks about the different types of domestic violence like verbal violence and the impact it has. Even the statistics that they included under the stories, I never knew them – that was a blowout, like seriously? The whole website was so easy to read and follow, including the café dates. During the whole process, Sarika was really compassionate and caring and this was also my little way of saying thank you to SAHSSI as I am so happy in the home I am at now”.

“Sarika really listened and I was able to talk to her and she understood everything I was saying.  And the drawings – I was looking at the journey of my life. I hope they do well with these cups.  I really hope the other women involved are all going okay in their lives too.”

So what is SAHSSI doing about raising awareness to domestic and family violence?

Over the last year we have been delivering domestic and family violence education at high schools across the Illawarra. We call this program Red Flags and the presentation was developed by our trauma informed case managers who work directly with women experiencing domestic and family violence. More info on this work is found here.

In partnership with a local psychologist, we developed a program that will become part of our case managers’ practical resource skills, delivered to mothers when entering our service, to educate on the impacts of trauma to children in a bid to lessen the impact of transgenerational trauma.

We have recently held a Client Focus Group (December 2018) to seek feedback from current and former clients on our service information brochure. Feedback collected from women we support was to ensure our brochure included the different forms of domestic and family violence and improve our cover page to clearly identify who and what we support. They felt the best place to market our brochure was at GPs. We are currently working on this feedback to improve accessibility to our services.

If you have any feedback or comments regarding any raising awareness projects you are able to do so here:

What else do you need to know?

We are hoping that this project promotes conversation and awareness of domestic and family violence, and reduces the stigma. Domestic and family violence takes many forms. It involves violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour carried out by a partner, carer or family member to control, dominate or instil fear. It doesn’t have to be physical abuse. It can affect anyone in the community, regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, disability, economic status or location.

Anyone in immediate danger should call the police on 000.

Finally, it’s really important to know how to seek help and the most complete and updated local Illawarra resource has been developed by the Illawarra Committee against Domestic and Family Violence that SAHSSI has been a member of for over a decade and their resource booklet can be found here:


Link to Illawarra Mercury Article Here: