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Healing through art: Women's Center to showcase art by survivors of sexual assault

"The girl is me," Artist Martha Lluch shows her illustration. "It's the version of myself that I reclaim."

Many of you are using time at home to get creative and save yourselves from boredom but for a lot of people, there's a much bigger reason for a creative outlet.

The Women's Center of Jacksonville is helping turn sexual assault victims into survivors by inspiring them to use art as a way to heal. The center is showcasing art made for this reason on their social media pages starting at 1 p.m. Friday.

One in three women and one in four men are victims of sexual violence, the CDC reports. Martha Lluch is an artist and a survivor. Art is how she's taken control of her healing and of her life.

"This was one of the first larger illustrations that I did when I was in therapy," Lluch says, showing her illustrations to First Coast News over a video interview. "And of course the girl is me. It's the little girl, it's the version of myself that I reclaim."

Lluch's Little Raging Warrior project is a blog for mental health activism through art, which is similar to the Women's Center's virtual "Surviving to Thriving" event.

"It helps to show other survivors, 'Hey look what she's doing. Maybe I can do this too, maybe I'm ready to speak up,'" said Lori Armstrong, Nassau County Advocate for the Women’s Center of Jacksonville who organized the event.  

Armstrong says the Women's Center got more than 4,000 calls to their rape crisis hotline last year. She says the center had a spike in calls at the start of the pandemic, but says there wasn't a pattern for why.

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"For many survivors, this is the first time that they've actually spoken about their assault," Armstrong said. "Whether it be through art or song, that is even more important during these times of coronavirus when we're isolated and can do some inner reflection."

Lluch says even those who don't think they'd be good at it should create art. Here's how she explains creating art:

"There is the critic, the inner critic, that tells you that you can't do things, you're not enough, whatever," Lluch said. "It's off, it's on vacation."

Processing trauma can be difficult. Lluch does it through the canvas.

"When you go through trauma, one of the main things that happens is you cannot structure what happened to you," Lluch explained. "In art because there are no boundaries, there is no rules, no setting, it's really like the white canvas is the space where you can start to rearrange what has happened to you, process it, understand it."

Learn more about how you can see the art that's helped heal here. You can see the art showcase on the Women's Center's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Get involved with the Women's Center or donate to it here.

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