Healing Through Art Therapy

Aug 22nd, 1970

By Brittany Lewis, MCASA Program Intern

Art therapy as a form of healing has been proven beneficial for survivors of sexual violence. Art therapy can come in many forms, such as photography, dance, writing, and music, and has the ability to humanize the individuals behind the facts and statistics. It can bring survivors together and inspire people to come forward, seek assistance, and report crimes involving sexual violence. For this reason, many organizations around the nation use art therapy in various forms to support sexual assault survivors.

A Long Walk Home

A Long Walk Home is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that utilizes the power of art therapy through the use of visual and performing arts to educate communities about sexual violence. Founders Scheherazade Tillet and Dr. Salamishah Tillet together have created multiple works of art using visual and performing arts. Their visual performance piece, “Story of A Rape Survivor (SOAR)” was inspired by Dr. Salamishah Tillet’s own sexual assault experience. SOAR uses music, dance, photography, and poetry to illustrate the emotional layers of recovery and show how one can attain healing by reclaiming power and strength. A Long Walk Home offers a variety of programs, lectures, and workshops, addressing topics ranging from sexual violence prevention to empowering survivors through the arts. For more information on A Long Walk Home click here.

Reveal to Heal

This past January, Stanford University launched a “Reveal to Heal” campaign after receiving an increase in calls regarding sexual violence and harassment on campus. One highly publicized case involving Brock Turner sparked national outrage after he was expelled and banned from campus and was sentenced to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious fellow student. This spring, the school’s Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education launched a pilot program, “Healing Through Art.” The program offered five art sessions where students could confidentially create art that reflected the various stages of recovery. During this process, counseling staff members were available to students as means of support and encouragement.

Corazón Lastimado: Healing the Wounded Heart Exhibit

Corazón Lastimado: Healing the Wounded Heart is an exhibit displaying artwork created by survivors of sexual violence. Each piece of artwork is created on wooden hearts, representing how sexual violence has a significant impact on people’s lives from the perspective of both survivors and advocates. These visual representations serve as a means of healing for those affected by sexual violence, and strive to raise awareness of the far-reaching impact sexual violence has, particularly among underserved communities. This initiative first began in 2001 and has since grown to include artwork from over 165 survivors.  This past June an exhibit at the National Sexual Assault Conference in Dallas, Texas displayed several of these wooden hearts for conference-goers. For more information about the Corazon Lastimado: Healing the Wounded Heart Exhibit, click here.

It is important to remember there is no “correct” way to heal from sexual violence. Often it may take multiple forms of self-care and expression to cope with the aftermath of an assault. Art therapy can play a significant role in the healing process for many survivors, giving them the opportunity to work through their trauma in a self-expressive way. For more information on the effects of sexual violence and self-care techniques to aid in recovery click here and/or contact your local rape crisis and recovery center.     

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