Discussing sexual assault side by side with resilience is an “exciting combination” that promises opportunities for understanding and healing, says Lisa Clarke, community engagement manager at Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre (KSAC), as she prepares for the closing night exhibition on June 1 of this month’s Sexual Assault: The Roadshow, in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough, Ontario.
Sexual Assault: The Roadshow has been at PCVS in Peterborough during the month of May, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while on its Ontario-wide tour. Funded through the Ontario Arts Council and created by activist Jane Doe and artist-activist Lillian Allen, it is a pop-up, participatory art gallery in a shipping container. The retrofitted, glass fronted container will travel on a flat-bed truck to 15 cities/areas in Ontario over a three-year period.
Throughout the month, four artists have led local art workshops for youth and adults exploring sexual violence, trauma and healing.
“As we start to talk back against sexual assault, we start to encourage awareness and put up more spaces for support and better understanding between friends and family,” said Clarke, “and then we reduce the risks, through love and support, of further damaging health and mental health outcomes.”
There will be “I Witness” images from Micky Renders’ workshop, puppetry from Shelley King’s, image transfer from Barb Hawthorn’s, and tanning from Anne Taylor’s. Artists and participants hope to collectively examine the objectification of women, the invisibility of survivors of sexual violence and the national silence around the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
There will also be a screening of the documentary film, “Resilience”, which explores the biology of stress and the science of hope.
“We want to talk about sexual assault and how it is a disruptive and traumatic event. It also significantly impacts our health, mental health and over-all quality of life,” said Clarke.
The film details how researchers have recently discovered a dangerous biological syndrome — toxic stress — caused by sexual, physical and emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect during childhood, which can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time and early death. “Resilience”, however, also chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the effects of toxic stress, the film shows.
“It really helps people understand how childhood trauma creates life-long quality-of-life outcomes,” said Clarke. “It all leads back to invalidated childhood trauma.”
Related: Ted Talk on Adverse Childhood Experiences https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime
Clarke said Sexual Assault: The Roadshow has been a great opportunity to educate the public, especially youth, about sexual assault and its consequences.
“When we opened up the art exhibit, youth flocked to the truck container to see the art and ask really great questions about these issues. We were right there in front of them saying, ‘it’s not okay and we’re here for you.’ It’s been very inspiring.”
Barbara Hawthorn : In her mixed media healing workshop, artist Barbara looked at the theme “What Is, What Was, and What Might Have Been”, exploring what it is to be a woman, how we identify ourselves, and how to remember who we are.
Anne Taylor: Anne is Cultural Archivist at the Curve Lake Cultural Centre at Curve Lake First Nation. She is a traditional Indigenous woman artist, storyteller and playwright. She explores trauma for Indigenous women and girls, and the greater community, through performing arts and traditional Indigenous art making, including tanning. Through language and visual arts, Anne explores the stories of strength and resilience of mothers, grannies and great grannies as told by the Anishnaabe peoples. Art created by youth, survivors and students working with Anne will be displayed for public viewing at the Roadshow.
Mickey Renders: Mickey, artist/educator/activist, brings alive the I Witness project for students and youth to document responses to rape culture, through photographs of people’s eyes. I Witness is about being seen and seeing. This project addresses issues of bystander intervention and witnessing.
Shelley King: Shelley has been working as a professional puppeteer, puppet builder, scriptwriter, and arts educator for over ten years, and has facilitated arts programming throughout Central Eastern Ontario. In “Facing Faceless”, she builds upon her work using puppetry to teach youth and adults about different kinds of abuse, including sexual abuse.
By Melodie McCullough