Too often, victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse are afraid to voice their truth. Some worry how the people they love will respond. For others, sharing such personal stories can reignite unwanted feelings. But then there’s the brave minority. Those who have discovered a way to express themselves, hoping to inspire other victims to tell their stories.
Over the weekend, many of these brave individuals took to the stage to share their stories at the the Amazing WoMen Poetry/Artist Showcase, held at Gallery Seventy-Four and closing out Child Abuse Prevention month (April) for some local survivors.
Eight artists performed to an enraptured audience, Comprising dance, music and poetry, the artists shared heart-wrenching stories about their personal experiences or the untold stories of their loved ones.
The idea came to co-organizer Anderson Allen, a local slam poet known as “Poetically Undefined,” when he was introduced to Patricia Rossi, a member of The Blue Rose while visiting a friend in Boston, Mass. It’s an organization that was created by a survivor of abuse and empowers other survivors to break their silence and find their voice through art.
Rossi opened up to Allen about her multiple experiences with abuse while he was visiting. She shared one story about an abusive neighbor forcing himself upon her when she was five years old, lasting until she was seven. Then she talked about being abused by male cousins from age 10 to 12. Lastly, she shared what happened when she was at a frat party while in college. Her stories moved him so much he was encouraged to use their mission locally to help other survivors use their voice.
Toni Rose is founder of The Blue Rose and explained that the showcase provides an opportunity for victims and survivors to be reminded that they are not alone. She emphasized the importance of giving people an outlet to creatively express themselves:
“We want to teach people that it’s okay to express their feelings regarding abuse… particularly through art,” said Rose, who believes there is real healing through art.
For each routine, the artists put massive energy into their work, allowing event attendees to feel their pain for that moment. While Allen had not been abused, he composed and performed a dramatic piece about the stories once shared with him by his students and loved ones. From this point, the room was full of emotion and you could feel the hurt of the presenters. Glancing around the room, you could see how the stories impacted the guests. In one corner, a couple sat together firmly holding each other’s hand with their eyes glued on the artists. In the front of the room, you’d notice tears falling from a woman’s eye after hearing one of the artists speak about her experiences with abuse. Some people were completely still with their eyes closed, shaking their head in disbelief.
With a great deal of emotion covering the room for most of the event, Rossi closed the showcase with a raw, uncut and comical poem titled “Members Only.” Before reading the unrefined piece about her female parts, she talked about how sexual abuse can make people feel like they’re very own body parts don’t belong to them. Uncut and creative, Ross begin voicing her poem about her vagina.
“I have one rule when I’m involved in showcases,” said Ross. “Never end them on a sad note.” She then went on, performing her popular poem to remind women that their private areas should be maintained like a private club that requires membership and should not be accessed without approval.