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The Creative Expression of Survivors

I have worked in the field of anti-sexual violence in some capacity or another for the past six years.  Some of that has been doing direct services work: hotline, medical advocacy, case management and other portions of my work have been more focused on prevention and awareness and community outreach.  Regardless of the role that I am filling, survivors routinely disclose to me about the experiences they had and the different methods and skills they used on the road to healing.   Hearing these stories of both individual and collective strength is really inspiring to me as an advocate in this field. 

Some of the most impactful things I have seen and heard throughout the years is not necessarily an account of someone’s story but rather creative expression through poetry, song, music, art, or any other medium.  I think that the ability to express one’s emotions or experience through art is something that is important and integral to so many survivors at some point.  For some, it is a life-long interaction with a creative medium as a way to express emotions, feelings, and thoughts that reflect the immediate impacts of the assault but also the long-term effects as well. 

One of the more ubiquitous forms of creative expression about sexual violence is through the Clothesline Project.  Many communities, schools, and rape crisis centers have collections of t-shirts that they hand on an annual basis to raise awareness of sexual violence.  This is a great example of collective expression because we see tshirts from a multitude of survivors and their significant others.  The tshirts also represent a wide variety of what happened, who the perpetrator was, and the reactions.  Some focus on how the survivor was feeling right after and some offer messages of hope, healing, and support. 

Another great opportunity for female-identified survivors in the Boston or Northampton area looking to use creative mediums and connect with other survivors is the Survivor’s Theatre Project.  This is a performing arts program for survivors of sexual assault that is run entirely by survivors.  Typically workshops run a few weeks and build upon each other both in developing relationships between participants and to develop a final piece of work. 

There are also a variety of individual expressions that survivors put into public forum, be it physically or through the internet.  Turning experiences into art is both constructive and cathartic for the individual survivor and it can be useful at raising awareness about the issues.  Communities can use the expressions to learn about sexual violence, its impacts, and start the very important conversations about how to address it and become involved with prevention efforts.  Other survivors can also connect to these public creative expressions, incorporate it into their own healing, and learn that they aren’t alone in experience or reactions.

Below is a list of a variety of the work that survivors have done.  It is in no means comprehensive but merely the tip of the iceberg of what is out there.  I encourage you to add other websites or displays that you have seen to further round out our list.  As this is the creative expression of survivors, some of it can be very triggering so please practice self-care while browsing.  Some of the sites come with explanations of how the author or artist was feeling and where the inspiration came from and others simply let the art speak for itself.

Sav’s Art
Tini’s Art
End the Silence Campaign

Angel Haze – Cleaning out my closet
In Your Skin
Broken Dreams

I Will Survive
Janet’s Socks
A Question
Who Am I
At The Verdict
Victim or Survivor

This is Not an Invitation to Rape Me

Victim Impact Statement
Sexual Violence in Lesbian Communities: Marginalized and Silenced
Journey to Forgiveness, Hope, and Healing 

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Posted by stacey

Stacey formerly served BARCC as the coordinator for Community Awareness and Outreach. Prior to BARCC, she worked for the Navy as a sexual assault response coordinator and volunteered for the DC Rape Crisis Center. She got involved with anti-rape work during college and has enjoyed doing both direct services and educational work.

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