Art therapy used to help abuse victims

Art is helping survivors work through their pain and helping advocates teach violence prevention.

Studies show traumatic memories are stored in the right back part of the brain. Art expression can activate that portion, so domestic violence shelters are using art as both therapy and prevention.

“I believe I would be dead,” said one woman, in talking about her artwork. It’s just blue and black crayon, but it paints a vivid picture of the violent and traumatic relationships men and women survive. “I believe the person I had to leave would’ve killed me… when I came here, I was terrified.”

The Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples is using art to help survivors work through those emotions. And in Lee County, Anthony Morales works with Abuse, Counseling and Treatment, using art to prevent pain. He travels to different afterschool groups, hoping to reach children before they’re in a violent relationship.

“You see me smiling, but am I really happy?” Morales said. “Boys will hide emotion, but we still hurt.”

He wants us to have a violence-free future, which is why he talks to young people about consent boundaries and the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. After talking, the 12- to 18-year-olds create these beautiful pieces of art.

Morales also hopes to teach children what to do if a friend confides in them.

“If I were to tell you what I’m going through, and I get shut down, or you know, you don’t really understand, I might not ever repeat it to someone,” Morales said.