Why we brought #1BlueString to the UK

A couple of years ago I came across the US-based organisation 1 in 6 which works with and campaigns for male survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation. I was particularly taken by their campaign #1BlueString, which invites guitarists to show solidarity with the 1 in 6 men and boys who have lived through sexual violence, by replacing one of the six strings of their guitar with a blue one.

As an enthusiastic amateur fret-botherer myself, I emailed the campaign at the time asking if they could ship to the UK and was told no, for the time being it was strictly a US initiative. Shortly after, during one of my regular chinwags with Duncan at Survivors Manchester we found out that we had both, separately and independently, been badgering the team at 1in6 to bring their blue strings to the UK.

So, to cut a long story short, this morning Survivors Manchester launched the UK wing of #1BlueString.

Let me share a few thoughts on why I wanted to help out  and why I think this campaign is so important and could potentially make such a huge difference.

It’s no great revelation that we blokes are generally pretty rubbish at doing things like talking to people about our problems, asking for help when we need it, or admitting to our vulnerabilities. Now we could have a long chat about why that is or just how damaging it is, but that wouldn’t really get us very far very quickly. The bottom line is that there are literally millions of men and boys in the UK who have lived through sexual violence or abuse and most of them have never told anyone.

For many of these guys, that is OK. They don’t need to tell anyone if they don’t want to. There are many, many survivors who are getting on with their lives and coping just fine, rarely give it a second thought, and that is brilliant.

There are many others (I don’t know the estimates, but I’d hazard this is the majority) who are getting on with their lives and most of the time are coping just fine, but then comes the occasional spell of anxiety, sleeplessness, the knot in the stomach, the burst of random anger, whatever. Again, there is no obligation to speak to anyone and many survivors are happier to cope on their own, have no wish to speak to anyone and that too is absolutely fine. But it is vitally important that they know that if and when they do feel like they want to talk, someone is there who will understand.

And then there is also another group of survivors who would like to speak to someone, would like to get help and support and either aren’t sure who to approach or just need a little nudge of encouragement to pick up the phone. This is particularly true for male survivors, who may have (wrongly) come to believe that all sexual violence recovery services are run by women for women.

The real beauty of the #1BlueString project is that it speaks to all of those people. To those who feel ready to pick up the phone and talk, it says that someone is here, someone will listen, someone will believe. When you click through to the 1Bluestring.org it will direct you to helplines and to a choice of different organisations that provide support, healing, counselling etc. To the others, it says very simply that people care. That alone is a hugely powerful message and it is the kind of thing that in a bleak moment can make the difference between someone perking up or spiralling down.

The other real strength of #1BlueString is that if blokes are bad at talking about ourselves, we can be equally bad at talking about sensitive, intimate and embarrassing topics, and lets face it, topics don’t get much more intimate and embarrassing than sexual abuse. Someone can put a blue string on a guitar and never say another word about it. The more the campaign grows, the less needs to be spelled out. A lot of the most effective 1BlueString videos that I’ve seen don’t say anything at all, they just encourage people to check what it is about and find out for themselves. There is a subtlety to #1BlueString which makes it all the more powerful.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be releasing a new #1BlueString contribution from guitarists who have already promised their support. Dammit, I’ll even pluck up the courage to do one myself, I promise. After the first big push, we very much hope it will pick up its own momentum and spread like a wave (or at least a ripple) through musical communities.

So if you have a guitar, do please pop to the site, order yourself a string (we’re doing them for the cost of P&P, no profit) and share a selfie or a video or whatever you can do to spread the word. If you’re not a guitarist, why not approach a musical friend or your favourite musician, however famous, and ask them if you can arrange to send them a string? Or at the very least, please help to share the videos, spread the word, pass it along. Chances are that you know someone – a friend, relative, follower, whatever – who will find this more relevant than you could imagine and you just might make a huge difference to someone’s life.


  1. says

    Well badgered, Ally.

    1in6.org focuses on male victims of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences when they ware children or teenagers. Their name comes from the statistics that “1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18”.

    From their website:

    Even though we don’t focus on abusive experiences that occurred in adulthood, much of the information and resources on the website may have relevance for you as well. We recognize that profound and often similar consequences may result from adult sexual trauma. Whatever your experience, we hope you are able to find something to help you in your healing journey on our Website.

    MaleSurvivor.org is another US organization that have information and forums tailored for those abused as adults (ASA): http://www.malesurvivor.org/adults/

  2. 123454321 says

    This is an absolutely brilliant idea, especially as it could appeal to the masses by tapping into the music industry using the pop/celebrity influence. I just love the idea, I just with it would include domestic violence and perhaps other key issues using maybe purple string, red string or whatever. Hmmm…

  3. mostlymarvelous says


    I ‘m inclined to prefer campaigns that have a fairly well-defined focus. At least for the first 5 years or so. Doesn’t mean that the organisations involved can’t build up a suite of skills, resources and referrals for associated or consequential issues, of course. I suppose that other linked campaigns could use the same mechanism – guitar strings or coloured ribbons or whatever – so long as their chosen calendar day-month-week doesn’t conflict, confuse or detract from the original campaigns.

    Looked around for anything similar to the bluestring idea in Australia and came across the Blue Knot Foundation in the extremely comprehensive list of victim/survivor services compiled by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/support-services

    Of course, nothing so appealing as the link to music / celebrity. (Though I think Movember is attracting some excellent popular figures for their advertising and promotions.)

    (Also came across a good reference to put in the backpocket for use as needed. A nicely organised list of research papers on long-term effects of child sexual abuse. https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/long-term-effects-child-sexual-abuse/impact-child-sexual-abuse-mental-health )

  4. 123454321 says

    Ok, fair enough, but this sort of thing has potential because the influence music has over people would make it all the more worthwhile – it reaches out to millions. I am imagining a blue snare skin, blue piano key, blue sax key… Everyone would wonder what the hell was going on…and they’s want to find out.

  5. WineEM says

    Y’ know this kind of reminds me of something that I heard ages ago recited in a radio
    programme about guitar music:


    The man bent over his guitar,
    A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

    They said, “You have a blue guitar,
    You do not play things as they are.”

    The man replied, “Things as they are
    Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

    And they said then, “But play, you must,
    A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

    A tune upon the blue guitar
    Of things exactly as they are.”

  6. 123454321 says

    Philip Davies has secured the main chamber in the House of commons for the debate on International Men’s Day.
    I mean WTF, this is such a travesty having this truly appalling advocate of men’s issues pull something like this off. Carny, are you as disgusted as me? This is so depressing.

  7. WineEM says

    @7. Davies getting the debate in the main chamber is definitely a major coup, and hopefully sexual violence against men will be one of the subjects raised. Westminster Hall meanwhile is often used to shunt aside things which are considered ‘fringe’ discussions (like for instance talking about the petition for the second referendum, which everyone knew was going nowhere).

    Good piece on the IMD debate by Poole, though the proof reading on the first draft by the sub-eds was shocking. (Haven’t checked since to see if they’ve ironed out all the mistakes.)


  8. WineEM says

    Shit, just noticed the wording of the web-address: “turned-me-into-a-blubbering-w”, that’s a bit unfortunate! 🙂

  9. WineEM says

    11. (Sorry, this is slightly off topic, but oh well…)

    On the subject of the U.S. election: if Trump wins, then we’ll all die pretty quickly through global thermonuclear war. However on the plus side, Trump’s winning will piss the liberal intelligentsia and commetariat off no end.

    So y’know, swings and roundabouts really. 🙂

  10. 123454321 says

    Looks like Trump won amongst the college educated voters too. As we all dash to toss Carnation’s little voting theory into the garbage…. A kick in the teeth for the establishment, a kick up the arse for feminism. What an interesting world! Now prepare for all the bleating and whining instead of concentrating on WHY this has happened. Watch as journalists refuse to spin any positive contributions. Watch the journalists cry, watch them attack, watch them gasp with horror because a woman has been pipped to the post by a white male.
    Or why don’t we just sit back and watch what Trump does now, and judge him on that!

  11. Marduk says

    Bit of genuine insight here:

    But look, the lessons are not learned. A couple of months ago the Graun was full of the need to understand Brexit voters who felt ignored by the London political insiders. Ever since that time it has argued Brexit voters should be ignored.

    Jessica Valenti, who wrote hit pieces on Bernie Sander coordinated by Clinton’s “Director of Creative and Content” is blaming everyone but herself right now. Which is odd because Bernie could have stopped Trump last night.

  12. That Guy says


    Trump is many things, but white is a stretch. Deluxe describes it more of a “Autumn Sunset”

  13. Carnation says

    @ 123454321

    “As we all dash to toss Carnation’s little voting theory into the garbage”

    What theory is that?

    “A kick in the teeth for the establishment”

    Hardly. A billionaire hyper-capitalist versus a flawed yet domestically progressive candidate. The ordinary man and woman will suffer, at home and abroad, because of this. As they will with Brexit.

    “a kick up the arse for feminism”

    What makes you say that? I think it will re-invigorate feminism like nothing before.

    “Watch the journalists cry, watch them attack, watch them gasp with horror because a woman has been pipped to the post by a white male.”

    It’s interesting that you see Trump’s gender and colour before any of his other, let’s say, more obviously defining personality traits?

    “Or why don’t we just sit back and watch what Trump does now, and judge him on that!”

    Well, whilst we do that, why don’t we judge him on what he’s said, what he’s said he’s going to do, what he’s already done and who he’s targeted?

    Trump, like Farage, is a wealthy man, born into privilege, who used and uses lowest common denominator metaphors and imagery to win the votes of poorer, less educated and less privileged people.

    And, when recession and possibly depressions, follows Brexit and Trump, rest assured, Trump, Farage and their cronies will remain wealthy, privileged and isolated. And the dupes who voted for them will realise just how stupid they’ve been.

    When dealing with you, I’m again reminded of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    “They’re too stupid to realize they’re stupid”

    Meanwhile, I’m saving as much as I can before the recession kicks in. I’d suggest that everyone does.

  14. WineEM says

    @13. Agree absolutely, in many ways a really excellent piece (though arguably not perfect) .

    This line especially good:

    “Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.”

    Let’s not forget that ‘high social status’ can sometimes mean cultural elites (cf. Foggy-boy’s ‘Gramsci organics’), in addition to economic ones.

    Human beings seem so vulnerable in this age of rapid information and technological change. Sitting comfortably now? No absolute guarantee, necessarily, you and your family will be completely protected in the future. So when people feel undermined and attacked for no reason, this can sometimes set in train dangerous & often undesirable forces.

    But alas, the progressive left seem to be retreating into self-righteousness more than ever before in response to this result.

    They need to think carefully about how former Democrat and independent blue collar voters (not motivated by racism, in the sense they voted in the past for Obama), came to vote for Trump – and whether gratuitous sneering at certain demographics by the liberal elite media (newspapers, CNN, MSNBC etc), might have had any part in this.

    After all, let’s not forget Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said from her polling that the public believed the media wanted Clinton to win by a ratio of 10-1. (She pointed out dryly that that poll was surely “beyond the margin of error”.
    Conway turns out to have known the voters better than anyone else, for she predicted the results in the the various states pretty much exactly.
    Also, she said very specifically that a big aspect of what motivated their voters was a counter-reaction to a certain sort of ‘political correctness’ (See her MSNBC interview on this). (This doesn’t mean she was railing against fairness, for she has always come across as fiercely egalitarian and meritocratic. )

    So, all in all, some hard lessons to be learned, liberal intelligentsia, some very hard lessons to be learned – if you’re at all open to learning them.

  15. WineEM says

    Conway tweets yesterday:

    Kellyanne Conway ‏@KellyannePolls 22h22 hours ago

    Dear Cognoscenti: speak less with each other; speak more with people.

    Trump’s voters were ‘hidden’ in plain sight

  16. Unsound says

    Hey all.

    If we can leave Trump for a moment…

    With tomorrow being international men’s day, I’m hoping to do a facebook post of links for men’s issues.

    The one blue string is the kind of thing I’m looking for. Does anyone have ideas for other organizations or campaigns that deserve promoting?

    Ummm, to the extent that a facebook post from a nobody counts as promotion…

    To be clear, I’m only looking for credible reasonable voices. Plenty of feminists in my friend group and I’d prefer to avoid a lot of drama 🙂

  17. That Guy says

    Hi Unsound, ignore everyone else, they’re wrong about everything.

    Try the following

    CALM (campaign against living miserably)

    do NOT try

    Fathers for justice
    Justice for men and boys
    anything that alludes to the popular sci-fi action trilogy ‘the matrix’ as a metaphor for feminism.

  18. WineEM says

    He he, just came across this comment on the Guardian pages in response to Trump victory. #BIGTIMELOLZ

    “Meaningless, lazy catch all phrases are used like ‘snowflake liberal’, ‘virtue signalling’, ‘identity politics’ .”

    Please, liberal intelligentsia, I don’t want you to feel at all bad: for you haven’t ever, not once, used your power to play cynical, manipulative games with identity politics, indulged in virtue signalling, defined as an unwholesome ‘outgroup’ an awful lot of people who should naturally be on your side. Feel happy, sleep easy, because the one things for sure is that you have never in your lifetime done any of these things.

    Your moral superiority is absolute – how could it be otherwise, when you tell each other this every single day (all the while casting aspersions on people who might challenge your prejudices.)

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