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15th Survivor Art Show Artist’s Bios

Artist Bios

Featured Artist: Anne Heck
Website: www.anneheck.com

Anne Heck is a fiber and mixed-media artist. She began creating dolls to connect with emotion associated with trauma. Mentored by healing doll artist Barb Kobe and inspired by the healing potential of the Native American medicine wheel, Anne embarked on a 7-year doll-making journey to transform her sexual violence experience and to reclaim her power. Anne is a Healing Touch practitioner, she facilitates healing doll workshops as well as empowerment programs for women and girls and has been a featured speaker at a wide range of events where she shares insights about her healing journey. Anne appeared on Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer, has been interviewed by the Washington Post, spoke on the TEDx stage and is a published author. An avid hiker and nature-lover, Anne is often found on the trail with her therapy dog Szoke. You can learn more about Anne and her healing dolls at www.anneheck.com
Artist: Chris Wilhelm 
Artist: Jay Joslin
Website: http://jayjoslin.com
unnamedJay is often described as a person who wears many hats, without enough hat racks. Tonight’s piece is a result of Community Choreography’s May Project, “My Body: My Intimate Companion.” His participation  created breakthroughs on many levels, in particular the ability to recite without script his own spoken word. A lover of awe, Jay seeks out connection and meaning in sensory relationships through poetry, essay, and photography. His photography has been featured in San Francisco’s Exploratorium Museum, he has three published collections of writing, and as a Substance Abuse Counselor founded a progressive men’s residential recovery program. He’s Jubilee’s Minister of Ritual, Teaching, and Counseling, and if he ever finds the meaning of life, he hopes to die laughing as a result.
          Artist: Barrie Barton
          Website: http://standanddeliverasheville.com
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         Community Choreography Project offers innovative and
         expressive work relevant to the human experience. Each
         projects is motivated and inspired by a theme that
         represents  a creative synthesis of the participant’s life,

         their collective stories and the community.

         By engaging in these story-choreography workshops and
         performances people experience the liberation of dormant
         creative potential, self- confidence, and an open door to
         the strength and profound notion of art and community.
         Artist: Laura Hope-Gill
         Website: www.thehealingseed.com
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         Laura Hope-Gill is Director of the M.A. in Writing Program
         at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Asheville. An advocate for
         the value of stories in healthcare and healing, she launched
         the Narrative Healthcare Certificate Program in 2014 at
         Lenoir-Rhyne, which has seeded multiple narrative
         programs in hospitals across the country. In addition to
         writing, Laura paints, composes and improvises on piano,
         and takes care of six animals and her 13-year old amazing
         daughter.

Compassion is the antidote: Combating stigma with love and knowledge

What we’ve been through shapes how we are the in the world.

This might seem self-evident, but so many cultural attitudes we encounter (and perhaps even hold ourselves) fail to acknowledge that people became who they are somehow. Many of us have inculcated in us through media messages, friends, family, schools, that we are individuals who all have an equal chance in life. Anyone who works hard can become whoever they want. Taken on its own, this belief appears encouraging, hopeful, and positive. However, its corollary contains within it a shadow that affects many whose lives seem to fall short of the idyllic vision of self-determination.

This shadow often takes the form of stigma. The stigma against people who are in poverty, who struggle with addiction, homelessness, mental health issues, lack of education, even things like obesity, and smoking. How many times have we heard someone say “Well, if they would just….” and then insert the “obvious” solution: get a job, reconnect with family, go on a diet, just stop drinking, just stop using. The conclusion is then to blame the individual, assuming that they must not want to get better, and chalk up their struggles to a lack of willpower, or a flaw or defect in their nature.1

My role here as an Outreach Counselor at Our VOICE is to work with the people at the margins of society, survivors of sexual abuse who often struggle with many of those stigmatized behaviors and situations. These clients may struggle with common trauma reactions, like anger, difficulty with relationships, fearfulness, tension, and low self-worth. Layered on top of these symptoms can be financial strain, early dropout from school, unhealthy relationships with food, difficulty forming relationships, substance use, homelessness, difficulty maintaining employment, as well as with core beliefs of worthlessness, or a general sense that they are bad, wrong, or tainted. People often don’t connect the abuse and hardship they’ve encountered to behaviors and material circumstances that they struggle with. An important piece of knowledge that can help folks articulate to themselves this connection is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.

The ACE study was conducted by an organization named Kaiser Permanente in the mid-1990s, and quickly caught the attention of the Center for Disease Control. The study polled over 17,000 adults, screening for the various types of childhood trauma, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, emotional abuse, incarceration of a family member, witnessing domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse in the household, and divorce or separation. What they found was that these experiences are widespread; 63.9% of people report at least one ACE. 20.7% report sexual abuse. 28.3% reported physical abuse. Researchers also found that ACEs occurred in clusters. 12.5% of the respondents had experienced 4 or more types of ACEs. The prevalence of these experiences are high; what was more shocking were the effects they had on health and behavior over the lifespan. They found that ACE scores correlated to the following:

Alcoholism, COPD, depression, fetal death, poor quality of life related to health, drug use, heart disease, liver disease, difficulty performing at work, financial stress, higher risk for intimate partner violence, higher risk for later encountering sexual violence, STDs, having multiple sexual partners, unintended pregnancy, smoking (with earlier age of onset of smoking behaviors), earlier engagement in sexual activity, adolescent pregnancy, and difficulty in school.

The information in the two paragraphs above was taken from the CDC website on ACEs. You can explore more of this information by clicking on this link

Take a breath and really try to take that list in.

pyramid

The theory put forth by researchers posits that these behaviors and health issues are a result of the developmental impairments caused by childhood trauma. They use this pyramid to illustrate the chain effect that ACEs have on the lifespan. Imagine growing up in a home where chaos, violence, neglect, or violation was the norm. (Perhaps you don’t have to imagine because this was your experience. If that’s the case, I encourage you to take care of yourself after reading this. Go for a walk, talk to a friend, pet your dog, do what feeds your soul and helps you relax). Children who grow up in these environments spend much of their time in “survival mode,” where their developing bodies and minds are constantly being taxed by their nervous system to ensure that they can keep themselves safe. Val’s blog post does a great job of explaining how a properly functioning nervous system is able to self-regulate.  Over time, children enduring chronic stress experience diminished ability to regulate their emotions and physical states. They may attempt to understand what’s happening in their lives by blaming themselves. As such, they may grow up being very reactive, seeking any source of support, comfort, or any chance to regulate their out of control physiology. (You can read more about the effects of trauma and chronic stress in childhood by reading Healing Developmental Trauma by Laurence Heller, PhD and Aline LaPierre, PsyD)

This understanding can help us shift how we see others who struggle with stigmatized behaviors. It can also help us understand ourselves. These behaviors are not their story. They indicate the presence of the true story hiding beneath, the one of survival amidst danger, of resourcefulness and resiliency in a situation of deprivation and powerlessness. So I encourage you to practice compassion and understanding. Remember the ways in which your past has impacted you, and how others’ past may have affected them. It’s in that way that we can begin showing ourselves and others the love and tenderness for those parts that we wish to disown or forget. That love and tenderness, kindness and compassion are the fertile soil from which healing can grow.

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Free Art Workshops!

Our VOICE is hosting several free workshops for individuals impacted by sexual violence.

For more information or to register, please email: arts@ourvoicenc.org

or visit us at: ourvoicenc.org

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Buncombe County Family Justice Center: A Path to Strength, Safety & Hope

With the recent violence here in Asheville, we are deeply saddened for the victims and their loved ones, but we are also hopeful that with the opening of the Family Justice Center this summer, we will continue to improve our community’s services to survivors and reduce sexual and domestic violence in Buncombe County.
What is a Family Justice Center?

The first Family Justice Center was created in San Diego in 2002, and the model has spread to many other communities throughout the United States, and even internationally. It is a “one-stop” center with a multi-disciplinary team to provide the comprehensive services that survivors need. A family justice center is a coordinated community response to sexual and domestic violence that brings together law enforcement, non-profits, and governmental agencies in collaboration to provide the best possible services to survivors. Here locally, these agencies will include Our VOICE, Helpmate, Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office domestic and sexual violence units, Pisgah Legal Services, Forensic Nurse Examiners from Mission Hospital, and Health and Human Services.

Why This Model?
Family Justice Centers provide one location of comprehensive services for survivors, which makes the system less complicated to navigate. Survivors will not have to make as many phone calls, fill out as many referrals, or tell their story to as many people, which allows them to focus on their safety and healing process. The central location for services also provides greater opportunities for interagency communication and support. This creates a strong level of collaboration between each agency, which will help us to continue to improve our services to survivors. Below are the overall goals that we believe this model will help us to achieve in our community.
Goals of the FJC:
• Eliminate duplication
• Increase arrest and prosecution of offenders
• Reduce fear and anxiety for victims
• Increase victim safety
• Reduce sexual and domestic violence

The Family Justice Center will be located at 35 Woodfin Street, and will be opening later this summer. Stay tuned for more information about the Family Justice Center as the opening gets closer. We are continuing to work towards ending sexual violence in our community, and we are excited for the coordinated community response that the FJC will bring. Thank you for all of your support!

Our VOICE Statement on HB2

Our VOICE remains committed to our mission: “In the pursuit of a community that is free of sexual violence, Our VOICE serves all individuals in Buncombe County affected by sexual assault and abuse, through counseling, advocacy and education.” We believe that all people deserve to experience healthy sexuality and personal safety regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual identity.  We see sexual violence as a widespread public health threat with historical and cultural origins, rather than the isolated problem of a small margin of people. Sexual violence is one aspect of gender-based oppression and is inextricably linked to other forms of oppression. We also believe that sexual assault is a crime that is motivated by power and control of one over another.  We recognize that those with the least amount of power are more likely to experience sexual violence, yet less likely to seek out services.

As such, we would like to make clear our continued commitment to the transgender community, and all other marginalized communities, to provide services that will place victims of rape and sexual violence on the journey to becoming survivors.  Our VOICE would also like to make clear that we remain deeply committed to eliminating sexual violence in our communities by implementing strategies that address the root causes and social norms that contribute to sexual violence.  We will continue, among other things, to dismantle rape myths, conduct awareness events and focus on primary prevention education in our communities.

HB2 excludes individuals who identify as LGBTQ from legal protections, and does so while perpetuating rape myths.  A key argument for HB 2 was the prevention of sexual violence and the safe use of public bathrooms and locker rooms.  As a rape crisis and prevention center that has served the community since 1974, we are committed to and encourage community efforts to prevent sexual violence.  However, we cannot support prevention efforts that are based on misinformation, fear, and bigotry.

HB 2 perpetuates the myth that being transgender equates to being a sexual predator.  Just the opposite is in fact true:  transgender people are more likely to be victims of sexual violence as one in two transgender individuals have been sexually abused or assaulted sometime during their lives. Furthermore, sexual violence has been found to be higher in some subpopulations within the transgender community, such as youth, people of color, individuals living with disabilities, and homeless individuals.

We encourage you to share this with members in your community.  We encourage you to learn more about sexual violence and the transgender community. We encourage you to help create a community free of sexual violence for all individuals. To find out more on how you can get involved, visit our website atwww.ourvoicenc.org. If you or someone you care about could use support, please contact with us via our 24 hr. crisis line at 828-255-7576 or by coming to our office at 44 Merrimon Ave., Ste 1, Asheville, NC 28801.

To transgender individuals in our community impacted by sexual violence, Our VOICE would like to say to you that we believe you, it was not your fault and that you are not alone.  Our VOICE is a safe space where you can receive services without fear of discrimination. We will stand with you as you walk on your journey towards healing.

Sincerely,

Our VOICE, Inc. Board of Directors

Building Self-Resiliency in our Work with Sexual Assault Survivors

Self-care is so obvious a prescription for first-line crisis responders that it has become something of a cliché: before you can put the oxygen mask on your child, you must first apply it to yourself. The consequence for not giving yourself oxygen first is clear; unconscious, you won’t be any good to your child at all.

Self-care might be the obvious prescription for this line of work, but- as it turns out- it is not the most instinctive. Many of us were taught at an early age to always adopt a posture of service to others. After all, we didn’t gravitate toward advocating for or providing services to survivors of sexual violence because we are most concerned about ourselves. And for most of us the act of looking inward to assess our own needs can be downright uncomfortable, particularly if doing so has us revisit traumatic experiences.

Recently I had the opportunity to examine the impact of various mindfulness exercises in working with trauma survivors. I was fortunate to attend the Family Justice Center Conference in San Diego, where I explored a variety of subjects, from intervening with adults who have high Adverse Childhood Experience scores to introducing deep breathing techniques to children who are dis-regulated. After the conference, I participated in a two-day workshop in the Community Resiliency Model, which uses the language of bodily sensation and mindfulness as a sort of behavioral first aid for those who are operating outside their “resiliency zone,” a state in which we perform and act at our most optimal. 

In trying to synthesize all of this great information, my mind invariably travels back to how we can equip ourselves and each other with the self-care needed to sustain the work we do at Our VOICE. How can we give care to the care giver? How can we build resiliency as a network of people providing hope and support to victims of sexual violence? How can we place the oxygen mask to our collective face first?

At Our VOICE we strive to give attention to these questions in an intentional way, building resources through both staff and volunteers so that we can be a community of care operating in our “resiliency zone.”

As with the proverbial oxygen mask, it starts with our individual practice first. Inspired by the classes I have taken, I am developing my own mindfulness practice through meditating. I have learned a number of things about myself since starting this practice. Above all, I have learned that the muscle for emptying my mind is very, very weak. I live in my head too much, and I am many more times likely to tick down my “to do” list than I am to concentrate on my breathing. But I am trying. And I challenge each of you to find something that helps you feel centered throughout the day.

There’s no one correct prescription for self-care. Do yoga if it’s your thing. Walk in the woods with your dog. Enjoy time with a supportive friend. Get a massage. Use mindfulness apps like IChill (which describes the Community Resiliency Model and its techniques) or Stop, Breathe, & Think (a guided meditation app for beginners).
Do whatever to take care of yourself. If not for yourself, then for the volunteer who accompanies a victim to the hospital, for the educator who hears a child disclose sexual abuse, and for survivor of sexual assault who comes to Our VOICE for healing and hope.

 

–Val is the Program Director at Our VOICE.

Soap on a Rope, Slippery Slope?

Witty banter, catch phrases, and prison rape jokes are common rhetoric in our society. So I ask, is the image and joke soap on a rope, a slippery slope? Are we encouraging, condoning and finding sexual violence funny? The roaring laughter that inevitably follows suggests that a tool used to reduce risk of sexual assault while incarcerated is found hysterical. Yet, this kind of humor encourages sexual violence, especially for individuals who are detained for various reasons. Social media, movies, and music sensationalize and draw attention to the issue of prison rape. What is rarely portrayed are the long term effects of sexual assault. Experiencing sexual violence is a devastating event in anyone’s life and the effects of sexual violence on inmates is exacerbated by powerlessness, facing their attacker on a daily basis, and limited to no resources or support following the assault.

The perpetuation of prison rape culture further silences survivors of sexual assault, condones violence, and dehumanizes the invisible members of our community, inmates. No person deserves to be sexually assaulted, regardless of their criminal history. Sexual assault should not be a part of their sentence, and flagrant disregard of the issue can easily be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment.

Nearly two million people in the United States are incarcerated at any given time. Twelve million admissions occur each year, and the jail and prison system can often act as a revolving door. Nearly 200,000 incidences of sexual assault are reported each year occurring in the detention facility. The most alarming fact is that this is comparable to the number of women reporting sexual assault each year in the general public. A large majority of inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, and many have not yet been found guilty of any crime but are incarcerated while awaiting trial.

To truly call ourselves advocates for ending sexual violence we must expand our views and afford services and attention to all victims of sexual assault, as there are no bad victims. No one asks to be sexually assaulted. All humans should have the right and control over their own personal bodies and space. Instead of viewing inmates as social pariahs, see them as your fellow man, parent, sibling, neighbor, or best friend. Legislation has been passed to afford rights and services to these invisible community members. It’s known as the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Change your rhetoric, educate yourself, and as you advocate for social issues, whether it be Cecil the lion, racial issues, or issues pertaining to gay rights, remember everyone’s rights and safety matter, and as a community we are responsible for the conditions and our attitudes. So yes, soap on a rope, is a slippery slope. The conditions of our communities are a direct reflection of our consciousness.

–Heather is the Volunteer Coordinator at Our VOICE.