April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This year we are participating in Denim Day (April 26th) as an organization. Denim Day is held on the last Wednesday of the month. Denim is worn to support survivors, advocate, educate and bring awareness to sexual assault and sexual violence.
The origin of Denim Day started in 1992 in Italy when an 18-year-old girl was raped by her driving instructor. She reported the rape and he was convicted and sentenced to jail. However, a few years later he appealed it arguing that it was consensual and there was no way he could rape her because she was wearing jeans. The court argued that because she wearing tight jeans, she had to of helped him remove them, and therefore it was consensual sex and not rape. The perpetrator was then released based on the victim wearing jeans. Over the years following this, women all over started to wear jeans to work.
Below are submissions of artwork and written pieces from survivors. Art and poetry provide an outlet to express experiences that cannot be easily put into everyday words. These submissions reflect not only the survivors’ experience, but also their journey. Through art, we can help promote healing, advocacy efforts, education, and awareness to not only the issue of sexual violence, but the stigmas that survivors face.
Want to Submit a Piece?
If you are interested in submitting an art or poetry piece for Sexual Assault Awareness Month for publication on our site this month, contact Angela.
Sexual Assault & Sexual Violence Survivor Submissions
I keep a hole within my chest
Unzip the skin from deep inside,
Teeth opening, my soul undressed
Vulnerable, I stand with arms open wide.
There, revealed, my structure true,
bones, then heart, no breath to spare,
Creaking, beating, gasping too,
Once a creature, wild-eyed and rare.
When storms do come, ebb and flow,
To fill the forest with tears and howl
I welcome the rain within,
Make yourself a home, I say, settle in
And snowy times that follow tears
strip away the colours the thicket bears
I carry my heart in my hands to shine
Let it feel the sting, become crystalline
In spring, I ask the birds to come and stay
To sing of rain, of snow, of wind’s embrace
On my ribs they land, branches to rest, to sway
In the end, warmth fills the gaping space.
Thus, carry the wound like a friend
And leave it open for the world to see
Nothing to fix and nothing to mend
But a home for rare creatures to be
Author – Abra Heinrich
Annotation: With this poem, I aim to challenge the idea that people with trauma require ‘fixing.’ While healing is important, it is not the same as needing to be ‘fixed.’
Using the metaphor of a forest, the poem highlights the transformative power of vulnerability and self-acceptance. This process can be incredibly painful, with different stages of hurt such as sadness, anger, and numbness, much like the cycles of rain, wind, and snow in a forest.
Nonetheless, instead of rejecting our wounds (represented as the “gaping hole”), we can embrace the difficult and unattractive parts of ourselves. By welcoming the challenging emotions, we provide a safe space for these “rare, wild creatures” to reside within us. I use quite vivid metaphors in the text to underline how radical of a process such self-acceptance is. As we become comfortable with our pain, we can offer a safe haven for others who are also hurting. By openly carrying our wounds as friends, we create the potential for communal healing.
This poem is a reminder that it is okay to not be okay, but that we can share the process.
The Circle of Sexual Abuse
I made these projects to show my feelings throughout my journey of processing my story. While processing my sexual abuse I felt that I was always being watched. That even though he was in prison, that he was going to escape and watch me. That he would come to school and try to take me. After I talked through this, I felt that I was damaged. That I would not be able to be loved. That no one would ever want me. That him abusing me would always be with me. Every touch, everything that he did, would be with me. his touches were that of the devil. They were red and would never leave me. Everyone knew my story even though I did not tell them. These marks were real and that sexually abused was written on my forehead. Even though physically they weren’t there, mentally they were. My artwork is about expressing the pain and feelings of the abuse I endured with the goal of starting a new chapter in my life. I created mixed media art that exemplifies the trauma of sexual abuse.
Symbolism is a large part of my artwork. The red on all of the shirts is symbolic of the devil, because that is what his touches were. The eyes in all of my pieces are meant to mimic his, that he was always watching me. As the projects progress I start to use more white to symbolize the purity. since that is how I feel, that I have processed the trauma and feel purer than where I started in this journey. An example of my representing this is in my shirt that is fully red. All of the eyes are bright and the vocal point of attention. Where the red loos eary and that of what I think hell is like, I would cut holes in the shirt with a knife to get the eye shape. The tearing is to represent the violent behavior of some cases. The last piece is to show where I am now. That I feel kinda back together. That I know that me being sexually abused with be with me. That these marks will still be there, all throughout my life. But I am mostly back together, there is love in my life, and I feel like I am okay most of the time.
These projects were hard for me to make. But they were 100% worth it. I was able to show my story in a way that I love. I was able to show my pain and how I have grown throughout the years. The last part of my project that I am going to do on my own is burn these shirts. I am doing this because it is what I wanted to do when I told my parents about my abuse. I wanted to get rid of all my clothes and burn them. This is what I have wanted to do for so long to just feel free from it, that it is no longer in control of my life. It is a part of my life, but it is not a controller of my life.
Rylee Reynolds 2022
On lonely nights
I trace the fissures,
The war-torn landscapes on myself.
Spiderweb patterns on shattered glass.
Remembering the day you broke in
And tore down the doors,
Leaving me unprotected like prey
Funnily, the scars you’ve etched
Remind me of tiny puzzle piece holes
And each of them looks just like you,
Leaving me incapable of filling them
With any other shape
One way to mend,
By setting my heart in stone.
Concrete moulds to every shape it meets,
-Even puzzle piece shape –
Before turning cold and unfeeling,
Like morning frost seeping
Through the fissures of panes.
If one dared to love me for just one night,
(because you cannot love me any longer)
I would be like black coffee on their lips,
I would leave dark stains on their skin,
Like blossoming bruises.
Would make their heart race
Yet leave northing behind,
But a bitter taste
In a dried-out mouth
And I would lay their fingers
On my chest
To feel the stone plate
The shape of a puzzle piece
Author – Abra Heinrich
Puzzle Piece Holes (Annotation)
I chose “Puzzle Piece Holes” as a companion piece to a more recent, hopeful poem (“The wound like a friend”) with a similar theme to showcase my journey of healing. By placing these two poems side by side, I aim to illustrate our resilience as survivors and the possibility of healing even when our injuries remain.
“Puzzle Piece Holes” is a poem I wrote ten years ago, only months after experiencing a traumatic event. The poem captures the utter hopelessness and vulnerability I felt as I grappled with the lasting scars of my trauma. re-reading it now, it paints a vivid picture of the emotional turmoil, shattered trust, and the struggle to connect with others I experienced.
This pairing of the two poems emphasises that the goal of healing is not necessarily to return to who we were before the traumatic event. It is not possible to completely erase our injuries. however, we can still find a way to heal, grow, and thrive again, just like I did and continue to do with my own ‘puzzle piece holes’. Because in the end, I did find other shapes that fit.