For the past 15 years I have been struggling to recover from the consequences of sexual abuse. I have been involved with many self abusive habits, including cutting different areas of my body. I have come to the understanding that these addictive habits evolved as a direct result of sexual abuse. The stories I am about to relate tell the fears and difficulties I have experienced as well as an account of the tremendous power that art has provided me towards a full recovery. I am writing this memoir in hopes that those who read it will better understand the consequences of sexual abuse, the importance of support and the way in which art can act as an effective form of therapy. I need to make art because it keeps me alive. It feeds me and makes my life livable. I realize that not everyone will understand or appreciate what I create. I realize that making art is always going to be something difficult for people to understand. But I don't care. I don't care because I have to make art. I just have to do it. Just like someone somewhere has to jump over a pole and win a gold medal. It keeps me healthy and provides me with the outlet I need. And so I've come to the understanding that I make artwork in order to live. I have discovered through my own experiences, that abuse is not something many people feel comfortable talking about. Often when abuse is talked about, people become withdrawn or nervous, afraid to approach the subject. This creates a tremendous strain for those who are trying to overcome the problems associated with abuse. What people need to understand is regardless of the difficulties surrounding communication, abuse happens and it happens to a lot of people. Using art as therapy allows my feelings to take form. They are outside of me for the moment. I can look at them and try to assess them. I have never told anyone the exact details of the abuse as words do not suffice. I have written down a number of detailed memories but I can't ever write it down the way it actually felt or feels. I know what I'm trying to say but words do not suffice. Throughout my graduate studies art has been an integral part of my healing. I knew I could not erase my abuse but I have found that by incorporating my art as a means of therapy, I have been able to find an increased sense of peace and strength. I have been able to fix things, things that before seemed unfixable. When I first began the project, aesthetic assumptions did not seem as important when compared to the benefits which came from the tangible physical process of making things. The process provided an outlet that wasn't going to hurt me. After continued therapy and assessment, it became easier and easier to recognize art as therapy. I was learning to channel my feelings and express things I couldn't express before. I was beginning to heal. For many the process alone could be sufficient; however I could not be fulfilled unless the work also incorporated a satisfying sense of aesthetics. I wanted people to see my work. I wanted them to see it and feel motivated to talk about abuse. I needed aesthetics to lure an audience that might otherwise not approach such subjects. While the main concept behind the work focuses on the actions of degradation, cleansing and reconstructing, I considered the work not only to be helpful therapeutically but also aesthetically pleasing. The work tells a history of the artistic processes which evolved as I continued through therapy. The work includes layers which indicate the advancement from fear and trauma to life and beauty. While parts of this document deal with extremely difficult issues, I haveallowed the text to wander, including more mundane or everyday diary type entries. I believe the manner of the text correlates directly with the art, emphasizing not only the brutality of abuse but also the hope and sense of achievement art has provided me as productive means of therapy.
College and Department
Fine Arts and Communications; Visual Arts
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Williams, Kathryn, "Fix" (2006). All Theses and Dissertations. 418.
selected project, art therapy, healing, sexual abuse