I’m excited. Next week I’ll be presenting twice on art therapy (or should I be tired already?) My first presentation in for the Virginia Treatment Center for Children on using art and play therapy with child abuse victims.

My second is on the use of art and art therapy as a response to violence. This presentation will be in Chicago at the first Art in Response to Violence International Conference. I’m really excited to be part of that. I’ll get to see the Combat Paper Project as well.

My presentations are on the use of art as tool within the industry of response to sexually violent crimes. In my work at a local rape crisis center, I have incorporated artistic creation into our work in rape crisis response at three levels. Art Therapy in incorporated into the counseling program to work with survivors of violence in the immediate aftermath of violence as well as for survivors seeking counseling many years after the event. My center has trained art therapists who have additional certification in trauma treatment and utilize Instinctual Trauma Response in combination with narrative art therapy. (Gantt, L. & Tinnin, L.W. 2009, 2007), (Olson, C. 2009). Art Therapy is well-recognized as an exemplary treatment modality for survivors of violence.

We have also worked with survivors to create and utilize the creative voice recaptured within therapy sessions to become advocates, using art to raise awareness and reduce stigma of sexually violent crimes. This awareness campaign was developed under the “premise that survivors can be scholars of their own experience and to explore how the humanities can contribute to our understanding of sexual violence and expression” (Art of Surviving). This awareness campaign as well as our use of creative writing and art groups for graduates of our counseling program is designed to work with survivors to access the power of visual media to diffuse violence and increase awareness of the impact of violence on our society as a constructive social action. Art as an advocacy tool “at once addresses the horrors of sexual assault along with gently giving a sense of hope in survival.” (Art of Surviving exhibit 2008). This ties in so well with the statement made by Junge, et all (1993) “as art therapists are we too often helping people adjust to a destructive society? “

Internally to the agency, another type of trauma can be a factor in response to survivors and that is the providers themselves. Vicarious trauma within the violence response industry results a high turnover rate of crisis responders, advocates and counselors. Rape crisis centers focus solely on one event, sexually violent crimes. Rape crisis responders, counselors, advocates, and educators all experience the trauma of crime vicariously in their interactions with crime, a society that still incorporates victim-blaming and disruptions in community response to such stigma-infused crimes. Here, the staff participates in creative art making sessions with the goal of metaphoric intervention within the staff group experience. These sessions allows rape crisis providers of all types in the agency to maintain their bond in serving victims of violence, process their own experiences in dealing with victims, families, perpetrators, the legal system, and the community in general in a creative manner that combines working through metaphor, sharing space in a healing manner and sharing words of support and empowerment.

My goal in not only incorporating art therapy as a strong and recognized treatment for victims of violence but also to work toward the goal as an art therapist working in a community center to bring that voice toward and inclusive of my community. And as an effect, bring the voice of the survivor to the community.

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