When it comes to the topic of sexual assault, it is a subject that is not often talked about, but the goal of “Breaking the Silence: A Survivor Art Show ” is to bring attention to this difficult subject.
The art work in “Breaking the Silence” is currently on display at the Tipton Gallery in Downtown Johnson City. Various photographs and paintings made by survivors of sexual assault hang around the perimeter of the room, catching the attention of the viewer as soon as they walk into the room.
Caryn Arwood, a survivor of sexual assault and a photographer whose art was on display, said she started taking photos as a way to heal.
“Eight years ago, I tried to commit suicide and then all of the memories came back to me. It was suggested by my psychiatrist that I try to do art therapy. I’ve always done photography so I started doing the photography again,” Arwood said.
Many of the photographs that Arwood had on display dealt with dolls as the main subject of her photos. The photograph that Arwood hoped people would be drawn to the most was of a doll head with a red ribbon tied around its mouth.
“I believe it’s called Never Scream, or Never Tell. That is what most victims are told ‘Don’t scream, don’t tell’, usually followed by a threat,” Arwood said. “To me it just speaks to anyone who is a survivor of any kind of sexual assault, that it’s okay to take that off, it’s okay to tell, it’s okay to get help.”
Ruth Taylor Read, the program coordinator, was inspired to put together the “Breaking the Silence” art gallery after she discovered that there were gaps in the resources for sexual assault survivors at the Johnson City police department. One of the ways that Read helped do that was by bringing awareness to the topic of sexual assault by hosting the first ever ‘Escape from Rape : A Cultural Change” last year. This year the event will be held on Sept. 15, and in order to bring awareness to the community Read helped form the “Breaking the Silence” art gallery.
When asked what she hopes people will take away from the exhibit, Read answered with a positive outlook.
“I hope that they will take away the braveness and the resiliency and these stories that are victorious because they have reached that part of their journey,” Read said. “I hope that the climate is changing in this community so that other victims feel confident enough to come forward for help.”
This exhibit will be on display until Sept. 13 and is free to attend.