Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Empowerment Through Art

YWCA’s 3rd Annual SAAM Art Exhibit Allows Survivors to Take Back Their Voice 

 By: Emily Ostrowski

 In recognition of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, YWCA held several events throughout the month in order to raise awareness about sexual violence, and encourage prevention techniques in our community. YWCA is well aware our community is far from immune to sexual violence. According to Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, one out of every three Washingtonian women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
Corey Jewell-Jenson

 At the beginning of the month, YWCA hosted speaker Cory Jewell-Jensen, Co-Director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention, and a leading expert on adult sex offenders having worked with them for over 28 years. She spoke to a packed room of concerned citizens and addressed myths surrounding sexual abuse, as well as what parents and communities can do to protect their children. On April 27th Yoga Calm partnered with YWCA to offer a free yoga session to mothers and teens. 

The month was rounded out On April 29th, when YWCA of Clark County hosted its 3rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month Art Reception.. The goal of the exhibit is to “empower survivors and allies to raise their voices and create community awareness around sexual assault.”

 The art show was open to all, and 46 participants expressed themselves in a variety of different medium including paintings, drawings, collages, sculpture and poems. Additionally, over 50 attendees were at the event, and were able to enjoy light refreshments while viewing the artwork and voting on their three favorite pieces. Both the number of participants as well as attendees were significantly higher than our two previous art shows.
"Fight Like a Girl"

 While much of the artwork was submitted anonymously, some artists were on hand at the reception, and open to speaking about their pieces. Rubyna Ali submitted her poem, “Strike Back,” which she presented as a spoken word piece, played on loop on her laptop. Rubyna developed an interest in poetry at age 13, and was particularly drawn to spoken word poetry, describing it as “finding your own kind of advocacy through voice.“ She’s performed her work before at school assemblies, and this was her first time participating in YWCA’s art show after being encouraged to enter by a former art teacher. She enjoyed the experience saying, “I think it’s really great for a community to come together through art and a common purpose.”

 Another artist who also participated in last year’s show, Amy Meyer, submitted her drawing “Fearless,” which showed a woman in a bright teal dress running against a coral backdrop. Meyer explained her motivation by noting that the official color for sexual assault awareness is teal, and by using the complementary color (the color that is opposite in hue) as the backdrop it represents a breaking away from the opposition, or the shadows of abuse, and coming forward. She was later awarded 2nd place for her work.

 YWCA Sexual Assault Advocate Shari Lachin, emphasized the importance of expression through art for victims and survivors of sexual abuse:

 “Art provides survivors a space to express their emotions around this horrendous crime that has been done to them with a positive and cathartic lens. Survivors can express themselves in a safe space that allows them to have control over the pace and response their healing is taking. It’s more than just creating the piece itself but also the process the artist goes through creating their artwork. The thought and emotion that goes behind creating their piece can be an empowering expression of their feelings.” She continued, “Sometimes survivors of sexual assault have to tell and repeat their experience multiple times which can be re-victimizing and triggering. Art is an opportunity to express yourself and feelings on your own terms, which is empowering for survivors. It’s empowering to have control over your story how you would like it conveyed.”

"Consumed Torso"

 We appreciate every artist who participated this year, and are pleased to announce the winners as:

1st Place: Michelle Atkin: Fight Like a Girl
2nd Place: Amy Meyer: Fearless
3rd Place: Jennifer Gilmore Consumed Torso

 More photos from the art show will be available on Facebook later this month.

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