On Friday, Sexual Violence Awareness Week’s Post Traumatic Growth Art Show hopes to change the dialogue around sexual assault awareness.
Hosted by the Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC), the art show will take place in the Sutherland Room of the JDUC on Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. After a panel of students speak to their experiences with sexual violence and recovery, there will be a showcase of the now-ongoing Student/Staff Spotlight portrait series.
There will also be an open mic for students to express their process of recovery.
“I think a lot of the sexual violence prevention and education work that has been done … has been very outward-facing,” Social Issues Commissioner and co-organizer Ramna Safeer said.
Safeer explained the focus on educating non-victims and non-survivors about prevention through consent and bystander intervention. She also wants people to learn about the overlooked journeys that victims and survivors undergo as they recover from trauma.
“I think that the work that has taken place is incredibly necessary and has gotten us as far as we are as a campus, when it comes to challenging a culture of sexual violence, [but], we wanted to create a week focused on community building within [victims and] survivors of sexual violence,” she said.
MHAC co-chairs Madeline Heinke and Lisa Iannuzziello hope the event creates a safe space to foster thoughts on post-trauma growth.
“We wanted to create a way for [victims and] survivors to share their experiences [from a perspective of growth], compared to a night where we’d walk away feeling heavier, and not knowing how to cope,”
Heinkie said. “We wanted to focus on how we’ve moved forward, in all our different ways.”
The open mic on Friday will provide the opportunity for students to speak out about their experience any way they wish, including using art, poetry and music.
When it comes to art, Heinke said, “it’s frightening to speak openly about [sexual assault] and I think art provides us an opportunity to express the things that are troubling us. Sometimes remembering everything that happened is extremely difficult.”
Through writing, Heinke said she found herself “being able to look back on memories in a way that was safe.”
“It’s important for [victims and] survivors of assault to express emotions that can be difficult to put into concise words. When you have a piece of art, you don’t have to say anything, and it can express so much,” she continued.
Generally, the week has prioritized intersectionality and explained how different facets of identity can play into incidents of sexual violence.
The art show’s ability to facilitate an understanding of overlapping identities by making space for marginalized voices is one of the key benefits of the event. For Safeer, promoting an intersectional approach on campus is crucial to tackling the culture of sexual violence.
If the approach to prevention isn’t intersectional, then it’s “not getting at the heart of what makes certain people more vulnerable,” she said.
“Sexual violence looks like the larger culture of complacency around sexualized violence, from sexual assault to the move-in day signs that we see go up every year. I think in that way, sexual violence impacts all of us,” Safeer said. That’s why fostering a sense of community among [victims and] survivors is so important, she added.
The organizers hope the show will help people form bonds, and feel less alone in their recovery process.
“What art does is allows us an avenue to really deal with that things that we’re thinking about and the growth that we’re undergoing after the trauma that we may have experienced,” Safeer said. “It’s a tool for us to recognize that our trauma complicates us, but it does not erase us, and inherently I think that is what this event is about.”
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