Surviving…Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art, October 5, 2017

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Surviving…Thriving: A Journey of Healing through Art featured nearly one hundred pieces of artwork in a variety of mediums, all created by survivors of domestic violence. It was once again held at The Castellani Art Museum (which sits in the center of Niagara University campus) in conjunction with the Red Flag Campaign, a national public awareness initiative designed to encourage college students to intervene when they see a warning sign (“red flag”) of partner violence. Niagara University, The Child Advocacy Center of Niagara, Family & Children’s Service of Niagara, The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Victim Assistance Unit, and the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier were all proud sponsors of the event, with all proceeds being donated to Passage House Domestic Services, a program of Family & Children’s Service of Niagara.

I was happy to offer closing remarks at the Welcome Reception, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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Well attended by NU students; they didn’t seem to mind waiting in line to sign in.

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DV Advocates with the Niagara County Victims Assistance Unit painting pinkies 🙂 The mission of  The Purple Pinkie Campaign is to eliminate dating violence. The campaign was founded in memory of 18-year-old Alex Kogut who was murdered by her boyfriend in her college dorm room at SUNY Brockport on September 29, 2012.

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Students of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy showing off their Purple Pinkies!

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It’s important to note that the event was well attended by both men and women.

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Campus and community advocates made themselves available throughout the entirety of the event to address any complicated or painful emotions that attendees might experience.

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Survivor stories are featured with many of the pieces of artwork.

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The Silent Witness Project was the centerpiece of the exhibit.

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Debbie Boyer stands in front of her daughter’s Silent Witness statuette. Tina Marie was murdered in her own home by her former boyfriend on August 4, 2004.

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Debbie is a pillar of strength and meeting her for the first time was truly my honor, because she’s also a fighter – In the nearly fifteen years since her daughter’s death, she’s become a well known advocate in Niagara County for her unwavering support of domestic violence prevention and response. With a deep understanding that adequate funding equals adequate services for women in need, she and her family  conduct two fundraisers yearly: a cell phone drive and the “Pennies from Heaven” drive which to date has raised more than $20,000 in support of the YWCA’s DV services and programs. The YWCA of the Niagara Frontier also recently dedicated a newly renovated room in its Domestic Violence Safe Dwelling in memory of her daughter, Tina Marie.

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“I ask each and every one of you who will walk this floor tonight to please understand
What you’re viewing isn’t merely art, it’s strength.
It is courage and dignity and tenacity.
What these walls house tonight is a testimony to the strength of the human spirit.”

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L to R: Dr. Dana Radatz, Assistant Professor of Criminology; Eileen Wrobel, Family & Children’s Services; NYS Assemblyman Angelo Morinello; Niagara University President Fr. James Maher; Larissa Bachman, Director of PASSAGE; NU Executive Vice Pres Dr. Debra Colley; *ME*; NC Victims Asst. Unit Susan LaRose; Criminology student Courtney Kenny; YWCA Sexual Violence Prevention Educator/Advocate Rachel Sandle-Sacco

Photos Courtesy of Andrew Emmons, student at Niagara University

Invisible Victims

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Closing remarks at the Welcome Reception for Surviving to Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art at The Castellani Art Museum, October 5, 2017

“So often in the media we see and hear sensational stories about battered women

Horrific descriptions of women being seriously injured, maimed and even killed

By the men who claim to love them 20171009_212828

And that is awful.

Each and every incident of battery, every life lost, is a tragedy.

But every single day 

There are also hundreds of thousands of women

Who aren’t killed by their partners

Who aren’t shot or stabbed or sent to the emergency room in critical condition

But are injured nonetheless.

Every single day hundreds of thousands of women

Endure cruelties and indignities that many people cannot even fathom.

Affronts to their dignity and to their humanity

Physical abuse that wounds their bodies

And verbal abuse that wounds their hearts and souls.

Yet these women quietly carry on.

They care for their children and they go to work

They go to lunch with friends and cheer their children at little league

They organize fundraisers and sew costumes for school plays

And they pray to their God at religious services, their families by their side

All the while carefully hiding the pain and shame that they live with every day.

Hiding their bruises and their embarrassment behind long sleeves and elaborate excuses.

And when they’ve had enough and they decide to move on and start their lives anew

They do so without fanfare or praise

Often times quietly enduring continued abuse long after the relationship has ended

And yet, they remain steadfast.

They stand and they fight for their right to live free from fear

Free from physical pain and sexual coercion and verbal and emotional battery

And they do all of this in the most private corners of their lives.

They do not tell their stories. They do not let outsiders in.

They carry their tragic history silently, and by themselves.

They are what I call Invisible Victims.

But they shouldn’t be.

Surviving to Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art

Brings the reality of these Invisible Victims to light.

They are our mothers and sisters and co-workers and friends.

They are your child’s school teacher and your real estate agent.

They are the cashier at your favorite coffee house and the lady who delivers your mail.

I commend each and every survivor who chose to take part in this exhibition.

To lay your pain and shame and embarrassment open for the world to judge is no small task

*I am well aware of that*

So I ask each and every one of you who will walk this floor tonight to please understand

What you’re viewing isn’t merely art, it’s strength.

It is courage and dignity and tenacity.

What these walls house tonight is a testimony to the strength of the human spirit.

God Bless these women

And God Bless the volunteers who took time out of their busy lives to facilitate this exhibition.

To recognize that no one should believe that it would be better to be Invisible.”

* Photo courtesy of Andrew Emmons, Niagara University

 

What Is Coercive Control?

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“Coercive control is a term developed by Evan Stark to help us understand domestic abuse as more than a ‘fight’. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self. It is not just women’s bodily integrity which is violated but also their human rights.”
Read the book: Evan Stark, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life (2002)

What is Physical Abuse?

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Punching, slapping, hitting, kicking, grabbing/pushing, biting, poking, hair pulling, pinching, shaking, cutting, burning, restraint, strangulation or any physical injury caused by an object or weapon.

No one has the right to harm another person. If you’re being abused by an intimate partner, there is help available. http://www.ncadv.org   http://www.safehorizon.org   http://www.ndvh.org