For Immediate Release The Art of Surviving Sexual Violence: Stories of victimization and healing told by survivors of sexual violence through their own artwork and poetry The Art of Surviving exhibit will be displayed at the Fredericksburg Athenaeum, 109 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 (540) 371-6771. The Art of Surviving is an exhibit of artwork and poetry created by survivors of sexual violence across Virginia. The art and poetry provide survivors, many of whom have felt silenced in their victimization, a voice with which to discuss sexual victimization and healing and to speak out about the realities of sexual violence and survivorship through artistic expression. The artists and poets who contributed their work to The Art of Surviving exhibit range in age from 19 to 75. They are college students, great-grandparents, military veterans, activists, artists, therapists, crisis center staff and volunteers, and self-defense instructors. Some of the artists created their art shortly after they were assaulted; some created it over 40 years later. A few created their artwork and poetry while staying in a domestic violence shelter or participating in a sexual assault support group. A few are professional artists. Many created their artwork on their own. The Art of Surviving is being brought to Fredericksburg by The Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault. It will be located at the Wounded Bookshop of the Fredericksburg Anthenaeum. The opening reception is April 3rd from 6pm – 8 pm. The show will run through May 29th. A project of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the exhibit has been on tour throughout Virginia since it debuted in April 2007. The exhibit is comprised of approximately 40 pieces of artwork and 15 poems, each with a written narrative submitted by the artist/poet that describes how her/his piece relates to surviving sexual violence. The Art of Surviving seeks to raise public awareness about the prevalence and scope of sexual violence, its impact on individuals, families, and communities, and the process of moving from victim of sexual violence to survivor. For more information about the exhibit details, please contact staff at RCASA at 540-371-6771 or The Virginia Art Therapy Association at (804) 632-8696. To find out more about The Art of Surviving project, as well as how to submit artwork and poetry to the exhibit, visit http://www.vsdvalliance.org.

One thought on “The Art of Surviving Sexual Assault: Stories of victimization and healing

  1. My name is Keith Smith. I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. It wasn’t a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quite, bucolic, suburban neighborhoods of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

    I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. Although he was arrested that night and indicted a few months later, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 34 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

    In the time between the night of my assault and the night he was murdered, I lived in fear. I was afraid he was still around town. Afraid he was looking for me. Afraid he would track me down and kill me. The fear didn’t go away when he was murdered. Although he was no longer a threat, the simple life and innocence of a 14-year-old boy was gone forever. Carefree childhood thoughts replaced with the unrelenting realization that my world wasn’t a safe place. My peace shattered by a horrific criminal act of sexual violence.

    Over the past 34 years, I’ve been haunted by horrible, recurring memories of what he did to me. He visits me in my sleep. There have been dreams–nightmares actually–dozens of them, sweat inducing, yelling-in-my-sleep nightmares filled with images and emotions as real as they were when it actually happened. It doesn’t get easier over time. Long dead, he still visits me, silently sneaking up from out of nowhere when I least expect it. From the grave, he sits by my side on the couch every time the evening news reports a child abduction or sex crime. I don’t watch America’s Most Wanted or Law and Order SVU, because the stories are a catalyst, triggering long suppressed emotions, feelings, memories, fear and horror. Real life horror stories rip painful suppressed memories out from where they hide, from that recessed place in my brain that stores dark, dangerous, horrible memories. It happened when William Bonin confessed to abducting, raping and murdering 14 boys in California; when Jesse Timmendequas raped and murdered Megan Kanka in New Jersey; when Ben Ownby, missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four years, were recovered in Missouri.

    Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.

    Out of fear, shame and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, not sharing with anyone the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. What happened to me wasn’t my fault. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help victims of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

    For those who suffer in silence, I hope my story brings some comfort, strength, peace and hope.

    My novel, Men in My Town, was inspired by these actual events. Men in My Town is available now at http://www.Amazon.com

    For additional information, please visit the Men in My Town blog at http://www.meninmytown.wordpress.com

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