Young artists display beauty conceived from sexual trauma
Many of the stories that were shared during the 14th “Artists Against Rape” at Mission Dolores High School on Oct. 26 were marked by trauma and pain, but they clearly did not define the lives of the 11 young artists who channeled their experiences into art, poetry and song.
“‘Artists Against Rape’ is a community organizing event and a good space for artists to be able to heal from sexual violence,” said Janelle White, executive director at San Francisco Women Against Rape, the grassroots rape crisis center that organized the event. “Our goal is to end rape through education and organizing and at the same time to support survivors to ensure that their needs are met.”
Considering the current political climate, White believes that advocating for reproductive rights and organizing events that draw attention to an issue as pervasive and controversial as sexual violence, is crucial.
“Some of the comments and lack of knowledge and information that’s out there about sexual assault continues to shock me,” said White, who estimates that one in four women will experience attempted or actual sexual assault in their lifetime. “Some folks in our society really want to limit a survivor’s accessibility to reproductive services.”
Friday’s event started as “Poets Against Rape” in the late ‘90s. Over half of the artists present at this 14th edition were under the age of 24, reflecting the event’s focus on youth culture and it’s relationship to sexual violence.
Whether it was to show solidarity in the struggle of ending violence against women, share experiences or witness the beauty conceived from trauma in art form, the event drew a diverse audience of students, teachers and advocates.
Founded in 1973, SFWAR provides resources, training, advocacy, prevention, education and support to people who have experienced sexual violence, while actively campaigning to end rape on all levels of society. The volunteer-based organization helps more than 3,000 clients every year according to White.
“I still consider myself a shattered person in a lot of ways as a result of my traumas,” said performance artist Jadelynn Stahl. “The difference is that I am working with them in this active way that really allows me to see that these wounds are right next to my gifts.”
Stahl presented a short film at the event, exploring the nature of silence in regards to rape culture.
“[My experiences] allow me to hold other people’s stories and traumas in a way that allows me to feel a bit of warmth,” she said.
For more information about San Francisco Women Against Rape, visit www.sfwar.org.