A big month …. we finished the Seaford women’s group and the East Bentleigh Women’s Clay group, and today (18th) we started the five week TOTEM group for parents and children affected by sexual abuse. We received funding from the Leith Foundation for this group last year so we ran as longer, 20-week version. It was a terrific group which we wanted to continue. Today was really lovely – lots of new people, who all love art and the afternoon art class was finished in a flash!
We are about to start a new art group for women victims of sexual assault and/or family violence at the new SECASA premises in Seaford. This group will be a ‘taster” as women will be introduced to painting, making artists’ books, working with clay and creating a mosaic.
These art groups continue to be a very popular component of recovery. Participants find they are a great way to learn new skills, do something they have always wanted to do or try, to meet and be with other people and to make something beautiful that they can be proud of.
At the start of each new group, I meet up with the participants to get a feel of what their needs are, what creative things they have already done and enjoy, or would like to do, and what might help them get the best of their time with the group. Over the years there has been a few constant threads amongst these women :
One is they love art. Most have not had the opportunity to explore their creative side, some have had the unhappy experience of this part of their life being trampled on by others. Nonetheless, their creativity burns within and they are desperate to express it.
Two is loneliness. Many people who have been hurt by others retreat into themselves or their own home – rarely venturing out into the world. It may feel safe at home, but it is extremely lonely, and it is all too easy for unhelpful behaviours to become entrenched. The art groups are primarily about art – rather than being about talking. This can ease participants into getting to know each other and forming friendly relationships. As the group progresses, people feel more and more able to share and feel part of a community and conversation.
Three is not feeling alone in the abuse history. Very often victims feel the responsibility of that abuse. They can be isolated from others in the family and community and feel that somehow it is their fault. Being amongst others who have a similar experience is helpful in understanding that you are not alone, and that you can recover and lead a meaningful and worthwhile life.
Four is many women yearn to create something beautiful which they can feel proud to put up in their home. But at the same time are held back by the very unhelpful “perfectionist” voice that relentlessly criticises them. We have a bit of a look at the idea of perfection in art and everyone creates artworks which are beautiful and worthy of public display.
The 2014 South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault calendar has arrived, and as usual, full of the beautiful work created by participants of the 2013 SECASA Art groups. This year there were three : two for women, and one for parents with their children.
Many participants (and counsellors) discover a creative self they didn’t know existed, whilst others discover a depth to a creative self that had been dormant for years. Most find art and the language of art gives them a way to express what has often been inexpressible through words. As the project artist I am always delighted and moved by the creative journey each participant takes – as well as by the many benefits I see as participants step out of the shadows of loneliness and self-doubt to find companionship and a new self of self through these groups.
I hope you like the calendar. It has become a much loved representation of the year’s creative work and the changes that have happened to the groups’ participants. It is a public acknowledgement of each participant’s experience of sexual assault, as well as a testament to their resilience, creativity, and talents. We put a lot of thought into creating a calendar that is beautiful – it also has the role of inspiring and encouraging others who are perhaps just as a the start of their healing journey. as well as being a daily reminder that help is available to those who have been abused.
Many of the works in this calendar will soon be installed at the Monash Medical Centre, Moorabbin, early in 2014
It is available through SECASA (see contact details on the back page of the calendar)