This week I did two presentations, one on art in response to violence. It did a similar presentation to the one I presented in Chicago at the Art in Response to Violence International Conference. Again, I presented on the use of art as a tool within an anti-violence agency. I added the use of creative writing by one of my staff with clients who had completed trauma treatment. This presentation was at the Annual Retreat hosted by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, held at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. I had a great time and was happy to bring Traci with me for her writing group experience.
I repost my thoughts about what I am doing with this presentation from a previous blog post below…..
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. Art Therapy is well-recognized as an exemplary treatment modality for survivors of violence.
My center has 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 and RCASA 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.