Hand made books in sexual assault recovery

Art making, especially as part of a community, has long-term recognition at SECASA (South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault), as being one of a range of useful tools to assist recovery from trauma.   Over the years we have run groups in mosaics, painting, clay.

The desire to join and participate is always high and the creative output always a joy to see.   The project moves around the various  SECASA sites in the south-east of Melbourne and right now I am working with a group of women at Seaford making hand-made artists books – a wonderful creative vehicle for self-expression.

Art in the context of trauma recovery is about opening up possibilities for women to express themselves.   That includes expanding participants’ skills, exposing them to a range of artists’ work and practice and encouraging them in their own practice.

It rarely takes long before participants are creating at home, a positive and productive way to overcome and replace some of debilitating effects of abuse, such as depression, anxiety and loneliness.  Creativity, by its very nature, invites expression and risk-taking, both crucial in recovery and to reclaiming a sense of self and self-worth.  

We start with concertina books – a technique that is easy yet can be expanded in complexity to suit the maker’s ability.  Concertina books can be viewed by the page, or unfolded into one long piece.  The covers bring a solidity and completion to the books.

Using a palette of muted colours of the magazines from the weekend Age, as well as music scores and text from books, the women and counsellor created books that tell a little of their story.  What they choose to express about is … an open book.   


A collection of books made by participants and counsellor.  


There are lots of examples of work created in various SECASA groups on this site, as well as PhD and papers that discuss how participating in arts practice, and with an artist, can benefit people who have been abused.