"A Woman's Journey from Domestic Violence Victim to Survivor" is an interactive traveling art exhibit that has been displayed in public spaces (university campuses, a hospital lobby, a judge's courtroom, a coffee shop, and the State Capitol) across the state of Michigan, United States. It is intended to honor the strength and courage of women who have experienced and overcome domestic violence as well as raise awareness and encourage others to take action.
The exhibit is interactive: Viewers are invited to walk through the door and open the suitcases. Survivors are invited to sign the back of the door.
Interiors of both suitcases. Inside one you'll find, among many things, a pack of Trident gum, a birthday card, a broken CD mix, a hand-written love letter, match boxes, travelling paraphernalia, a lock of light-brown hair. In the other, neater suitcase, you'll find a perfect, long braid of hair, an intact CD mix of her favorite music, a painter's brush, a stuffed animal and a large sticker saying "There is no excuse for domestic violence."
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Picture a woman. Every breath of every second of every minute of every day, she lives in fear of the person she loves. She is filled with hope; she is filled with despair. It is a seesaw of emotion that accompanies the bruises, the burns, and the scars to her body and her heart. One day she finally finds the courage to walk through the door, taking with her only a suitcase filled with small relics of years spent with another person.
People always ask, "Why doesn't she just leave?" The question we should be asking is, "What can I do to help bring an end to domestic violence in my community?"
As a survivor of domestic violence, I have felt the fear, the sadness, and the confusion of being in an abusive relationship. I know why she does not leave. She doesn't leave because she is in love. She is scared. She thinks she has nowhere to go. There are so many reasons.
I invite you to view this art exhibit with your heart, your mind, and your soul. As you look at the door, you will see that one side is full of positive messages, while the other side portrays the darker images of abuse and violence. This is because in an abusive relationship, the line between the good times and the bad times isn't always so clear.
The suitcase in the middle of the door represents this ambivalence. If you open the suitcase, you will see tiny mementos of happy times, and reminders of scary, hurtful times. But by opening the suitcase, you will also be able to see through to the other side of the door symbolizing the woman's traveling from victimization to freedom, carrying with her, forever, both the good and the bad memories.
This art exhibit was started primarily to bring awareness to the fact that domestic violence happens all the time, everywhere. It crosses the boundaries of gender, race, religion and class.
What can you do to help you ask yourself. You can volunteer your time. You can donate goods and materials for shelter programs. You can contribute money so counseling services at domestic violence centers can reach more women. Please check with your local domestic violence shelter to find out where your skills can be most useful.
Open the door. Take a journey. Thank you for taking the time to care.
To learn more about "A Woman's Journey from Domestic Violence Victim to Survivor" visit Gift from Within.
To help women victims of domestic violence get involved with End Violent Encounters (EVE).