The Power of Art & Storytelling — by Shira Golden, co-founder of Reveal to Heal
The numbers are staggering.
In America, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. Approximately 80% of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. 68% of assaults are never reported to the police, and 98% of rapists will never spend a day in prison.
And so forth.
Statistics such as these have a purpose. They identify patterns, provide data, and can help us understand risk-factors. It’s information that can be used to educate and inform the public, raising awareness and increasing prevention. What the numbers lack, however, is humanity.
The story that the numbers tell is one without names, faces, or personalities. It’s a story that has been stripped of all its details, sterile and incomplete. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the numbers represent people, real people; the numbers don’t account for the complexities, alienation, and trauma. And without all of that, the numbers alone cannot inspire empathy, action, or change.
Where statistics lack, art and storytelling have a lot to offer.
Reveal to Heal is an initiative to combat the sexual abuse epidemic through the power of art & storytelling—shining light on the problem so it can no longer exist in the shadows. Reveal to Heal is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to empowering silenced survivors to reclaim their voices, encouraging advocacy, and eliminating sexual abuse through the illumination of stories. Reveal to Heal is a community, a movement, and a catalyst of change.
Why Art & Storytelling?
Personal narratives shed light on the human experience, connecting people to issues on a personal, relatable level. Art and stories can be a powerful tool in reaching audiences who might otherwise be looking the other way. Stories humanize problems, and in the context of sexual assault, survivor stories can inspire a will to act in ways that numbers simply cannot.
Beyond the impact of art & storytelling on its receiving audiences, there is an equally if not greater value to the storytellers (survivors) themselves. So often, survivors’ stories remain unheard, or even worse, they are repositioned by the media to reflect the principles of rape culture (i.e. victim blaming). When survivors of sexual assault are offered a platform to share their story, they’re given the opportunity to reclaim their voices, thus taking control of their own narrative.
Not only can creative expression—be it in the form of writing, poetry, art, music, etc.— be extremely cathartic and empowering, it offers opportunities for unique reflection for both survivors and audiences alike.
The effects of sexual abuse are traumatic, alienating, and more often than not, they are experiences that are locked within. When victims of sexual abuse suffer in silence, healing and closure are practically unattainable, and perpetrators go unpunished. Through the sharing of survivor art and stories, survivors can see that they are not alone, and therefore be motivated to seek the professional help (i.e. therapy, legal counseling) they may require.
Last but not least, by allowing survivor stories to surface in dominant, mainstream culture, we can begin to chip away at the stigma surrounding issues of sexual assault.
With the option to remain anonymous, Reveal to Heal offers survivors the unique opportunity to share openly and honestly, without fear of judgement. Reveal to Heals accepts submissions in all creative forms—drawings, paintings, illustrations, videos, poetry, dance, music, etc., and encourages the perspectives of survivors and advocates, artists and "non-artists" alike. We welcome stories, confessions (think PostSecret), mantras, proclamations, passion statements, and any art that may be open to interpretation.
What We Aim to Accomplish: Elimination through Illumination
When you shine a light on a problem, it can no longer exist in the shadows. At the core of the Reveal to Heal initiative is a high-placed value on speaking up—both in an effort to allow oneself to heal and gain closure, and also to prevent future misconducts from happening. Through building a safe, online community, it is our goal to empower survivors to exercise the power of their own voices—be it through contributing to our gallery, engaging in conversations with other survivors, or reporting their abuse to ensure the future safety of themselves and others.
How to Get Involved
Whether you are a survivor of sexual assault, know someone who is, or just deeply care about this issue, there are endless opportunities to make a difference. Here are just a few:
Tell Reveal to Heal your story: Add your voice to our growing online community by submitting to our Gallery. Tell us your secrets, your fears, your mantra, or your message to other survivors. Share a poem, a painting, or a post-it note. Get creative! Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or submitted anonymously through the uploader on our website, reveal-heal.org. You are also welcome to join our facebook, twitter, and instagram communities for featured artwork and stories, news, resources, upcoming projects, and more.
Tell a friend: Another important way to show your support is by simply telling your friends about Reveal to Heal! It is just as important for people to listen to survivor stories as it is to share them. Raising awareness on the sexual assault epidemic is a key part of our initiative to destigmatize and ultimately eliminate the issue as a whole.
Skills Activism: Like any social, political, or cultural movement, collective efforts to end sexual violence require the coming together of various skill-sets, talents, and passions. EROC is always looking for people from different professional backgrounds and experiences to find the intersection between where their talents and passions meet this very important need. Reveal to Heal is honored to be featured as a resource on EROC’s Skills Activism page alongside a growing catalogue of other activist organizations and resources. Maybe your skills or interests are not included within the realm of art & storytelling…and that’s OK! If you’re passionate about the issue of sexual assault awareness and prevention, you can be a part of the movement by doing the things you’re already good at.
We at Reveal to Heal are humbled and honored to be working alongside powerhouses such as EROC and are grateful for this opportunity to share about the power of art & storytelling. We are endlessly amazed and inspired by the growing community of advocates and survivors and firmly believe that we are stronger together.