art and healing from trauma and abuse

The Creative Voice in Healing Trauma: Powerful Projects by Survivors and Advocates

As a follow up with our last blog on creativity for survivors, I’ve been thinking about some of the amazing creative project survivors of trauma and abuse have created as they so courageously work to reclaim their lives. Someone once said, ‘pain is dysfunction leaving the body’. I firmly believe that the creative voice, once accessed and brought to fruition, can be a powerful force for healing both individuals and communities. Please join me in celebrating some courageous men and women utilizing their creative voices in profound ways in the world today to raise awareness about healing from abuse and trauma. (We wish we could profile all the wonderful projects out there!) We hope this inspires you pick up a pen and write, paint, dance sing that song, take those photos, and give voice to the creative power that lives in all of us!


Points With Purpose David Ilan has been drawing using only dots for many years. Points with Purpose is his first drawing where each dot represents a real person who has been raped or sexually abused. Every person that signs up (for free) gets one dot in the portrait in their honor. One question that people seem to be asking David a lot lately is: Why do a project about rape and sexual abuse?

David has a personal connection to this topic because two people close to him have been raped. He will not share their stories because he believes they are not his to share but he can share the stories from his perspective. He saw how his two friends were affected by their experiences and how their worlds were turned upside-down. He was able to understand that this isn’t something you can just get over. Rape and sexual abuse can destroy lives for many years to come.

David chose to do this drawing because for some reason the public doesn’t like to face the topic of rape and sexual abuse. Almost always, the media refuses to cover this topic unless it is about a specific case that can help with their ratings. Because of this we have millions of survivors who feel like they should be ashamed of what happened to them. Even worse, without the proper support from society, survivors are left to feel alone.

David’s aim is to bring survivors of rape and sexual abuse together. For the portrait of the survivor to be finished, real survivors will have to come together and take a stand. Even if participants choose to remain anonymous, they are still standing up and being counted. When survivors share their experiences and see how many others have gone through similar experiences, they will feel less alone. When survivors see that others are handling life after their rape or sexual abuse in a similar way, they will know their own reaction is normal.

Child Abuse Monument Dr. Irving has created with participation of child abuse survivors a bronze monument to acknowledge and validate childhood abuse victims. This monument honors the spirit and courage of participating survivors and empowers survivors to speak out. It has an extraordinary transformative impact on those who come in contact with it.

More than twenty years ago, as a psychotherapist, Dr. Irving was listening to stories of tragedies inflicted on small children. Beyond the role of being a good clinician these stories called out to the artist in him to take action using the power of art to bring about understanding and change.

Survivor Mural Project This collaborative art project provides an opportunity for survivors of rape, sexual abuse and assault to participate in breaking the silence surrounding sexual violence.

Each mural piece represents a life that has been affected by sexual violence. Survivors from all over the world send in individual mural pieces, which are then placed into their gallery.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault you are invited to participate. You do not have to be an artist: art is for anyone who has something to say and the courage to say it. I hope that this project helps you to know that you’re not alone.


Bristlecone Project: Dr. David Lisak’s powerful project in collaboration with 1in6, Inc. Bristlecone is a mosaic of photographs and words that portray the reality of men who were sexually abused as children. Dr. Lisak is a researcher and forensic consultant who for 25 years has studied the causes and consequences of interpersonal violence. Himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Dr. Lisak is one of three courageous men profiled in the documentary, Boys and Men Healing, a Big Voice production.

Bristlecone Pine trees survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the western Rocky Mountains. Despite thin soils, strong winds, freezing temperatures, and limited water, Bristlecones can live for thousands of years, and are among the oldest living organisms on earth. Consider supporting this campaign a Kickstarter campaign to for editing video versions of the portraits.

Voices and Faces Project

This successful organization has a bold mission: to create a national network of survivors willing to stand up and speak out about sexual violence

The Voices and Faces Project is an award-winning documentary initiative created to bring the names, faces and stories of survivors of sexual violence and trafficking to the attention of the public. A past finalist for the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Documentary Prize, The Voices and Faces Project was recently recognized by the United States Department of Justice as “a leader in the growing movement of young pioneers who are coming forward with new ideas in the fight to end violence.” Through its lobbying and speakers bureau, websites ( and, sexual violence survivor story archive and a series of documentary and creative projects—including the country’s first creative writing workshop for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and trafficking—The Voices and Faces Project seeks to change minds, hearts and public policies on sexual violence and exploitation. The Voices and Faces Project is a national 501c3 non-profit organization.

Project Unbreakable Project Unbreakable is a photography project aiming to give a voice to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. Project Unbreakable has been featured in media outlets such as Glamour, TIME, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian.

Mary S. Calbert’s Photographs Mary F. Calvert is committed to using photography to affect meaningful social change and is known for producing work on gender based, human rights issues. She has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award twice and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Photography. In 2013, Calvert was the recipient of the Canon Female Photojournalist Award at Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan, France for her project, The Battle Within: Sexual Violence in America’s Military.


Boys Don’t Tell. Advocate and Suvivor Randy Ellison’s honest and touching memoir recounting his journey through a minefield based on his own denial, Boys Don’t Tell takes a subjective look back at a life distorted by the effects of childhood sexual abuse and offers insight on why victims find it so difficult to “just get over it and move on.” Through the eyes and emotions of the author, this book reveals his abuse as a teenager by a trusted minister and mentor, then recounts years of therapy, a formal complaint to The Church, and a lawsuit settled in mediation.

Poet and Author Rick Beldon’s bold, raw and honest writings. Rick is dedicated to exploring men’s issues, masculine psychology, and recover from abuse via poetry, essays, and art. (I’ll be sharing a post in January about Rick’s work): Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood and Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about finding and reclaiming the lost man within.

(Here are some other suggested memoirs for male survivors)


Mike Skinner Mike is a survivor and advocate who writes and perform songs about life, love, loss and hope. His beautiful song Brush Away the Tears plays over the ending credits of our film Boys and Men Healing. (Listen to #13)

Free as the Sun This is a beautiful multi-media project and music in memory of our colleague’ son who died at 17 years old after struggling with addictions and overcoming the effects of boyhood sexual abuse. The project features his profound Music, Poetry & Life.

Also this is a touching radio interview with some of his friends featured on the albulm. They discuss how Free As The Sun will benefit other young people dealing with addiction and the lasting trauma of childhood abuse.

Tori Amos, a sexual violence survivor and the founder of RAINN, inspires millions of survivors with her honest, emotional songs. Her song ‘Me and a Gun’ helped listeners understand the pain of experiencing sexual trauma– offering a voice and hope to so many still in silence who experienced something similar.

Here’s some of her words from a earlier public service announcement “Hi, I’m Tori Amos, and in my debut solo album Little Earthquakes there’s a song that’s pretty special to me called ‘Me and a Gun.’ It’s about a violent attack that happened several years ago to me. Atlantic Records has helped me set up a nationwide 24-hour toll-free hotline for survivors of sexual assault. If you need advice, information, or support call 1-800-656-HOPE. That’s 1-800-656 HOPE, because there is hope.” –

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