The Survivor Monument Project
was unique in the degree in which it involved survivors
who were non-professional artists in creating a major
public art work. One of our desires is to share our
experiences so others may build upon the lessons gained
from our experiences.
There are many different forms of support
as you go through your healing journey. We hope that
the following pictures and survivor's quotations will
help you during your own self care. Due to the sen
sitivity of the material being explored,
survivors enrolling in workshops were required to
have a personal support system in place.
During the workshop period, they were
likely to re-evaluate their childhood traumas. We
believe it was important to respect the boundaries
and pacing of each survivor/artist as they used the
power of personal experience to communicate a social
message. In respecting their boundaries, we did not
push or therapeutically probe the material of the
quilt squares.The historic details or emotional issues
related to the content of each survivor's square was
theirs to disclose or not disclose.
We expected participants to look after
themselves and take what came up to their personal
support system. Directly following a workshop experience,
one survivor/artist wrote:
“I came home last night and immediately
had body memory on the next round of issues. It’s
really a testimony to the healing effect of art
and this monument because I achieved what I wanted
to do with my art work last night.
I put down my friend’s name in
wax and immortalized a quotation and that felt complete.
I can fine tune my quilt square, but it was basically
what I wanted to do, so I left it. Then in doing
the HandPrints and writing poetry, the other issues
started to surface.
Talk about fast healing, resolution
or closure. I can see now I would have gone into
that body feeling in the art studio if I’d been
pressured to read more of my poem or even if someone
else had read it. So I feel it is a good thing Michael
is a sculptor and a psychotherapist.”
Some Thoughts and
Rememberings of My Monument
I didn’t keep a
journal during the
weeks that I worked on my square
and my poem so now all I can do
is to look back, remember and
assess. Of course, things do
translate differently in retrospect
and I am looking at the
experience through different eyes
for I am changed.
As I look back, it was
first reading of the newspaper
article about the Project, the
search for a phone number,
making the call and signing up to
start in a few day’s time. Right
from the beginning something
inside me said, AI have to do this.
I had already been a
several women's survivor groups
and was still seeing a counselor
bi-monthly so I felt confident that
I could handle any memories and
feelings that might be stirred up in
me. I never really considered the
possibility of the Project having
any significant impact on me, but
I was very wrong.
At first, an idea for
what I would
put on my square simply would
not come. Ideas that did come
were of obscure images that had
meaning for me but would in my
estimation say nothing to anyone
else. I really wanted something
that would have impact on the
viewer and say something to
them about child abuse. A tall
order I suppose. I was having
trouble meeting my expectations.
Oh well then, I'll just
work on the
poetry aspect of the Project.
Having tried to write before,
letters to my abuser and such,
with little success and absolutely
no satisfaction, I launched into
rhyming couplets with a
vengeance. My inspiration had to
come from somewhere inside and
so I went within and remembered
and relived. What I found were
feelings. How I felt about what
had happened to me, something
I'd always avoided. Looking back
now, months later, that time spent
sifting through the memories and
feeling the feelings was the most
disturbing and painful period of
time for me since the sexual
abuse I endured.
Still nothing came, no
idea for the square. Then, having
just dropped off to sleep one night
I suddenly awoke with a complete
poem in my head, not of the
rhyming variety but poetry
nonetheless. I got up, wrote it out
and went back to bed. In the
morning I realized that somehow,
somewhere a dam had burst. A
poem was already on paper and
ideas for the wax were flowing.
Suddenly, I had found my voice.
I could write something from my
gut from my innermost self that
spoke to others. I couldn't stop
writing. The flood gates were
open. I felt driven, almost out of
control. As scary as it was, a
great relief was mine and
continues to be mine. For, when
old wounds hurt and memories
flow, I can give voice to them
now. They no longer stay choking in silence deep inside.
The Monument itself,
a figure with
outstretched arms, even in its
small maquette form, gives me a
special feeling and I can imagine
that in its full size it will reach out
in benediction to all survivors who
visit and the squares of its quilted
robe will tell the stories of those
who made them. Every story
different and yet the same.
In closing, I must say
that I will
be forever grateful that I picked
up that out-of-date newspaper
and thus began a journey of
healing thanks to the Monument
Project and its founders. The
process of creating this monument
has validity in and of itself and I
believe that when finished, it will
stand in testament to the strength
and courage of all survivors of
child sexual abuse.
It's a rope
I can hang
The choice is mine
It's what I'm left with
A deep cavern
I can see its darkness
Or the light at its end
The choice is mine
Its what I'm left with
A helping hand
I could go alone
Or grab onto its strength
The choice is our's
It's what we start with.
Free At Last
I pull, I twist, I squeeze, I stretch
this hard shapeless piece of wax
Wanting to create a picture
that shows the honest facts.
Needing to show the world
my anguish, sorry and pain
Where a child so full of hurt
lay crumpled covered with shame
Shame for things done to me
with choices I never had
Constantly told by all
that I was the one who was bad.
As I manipulate this piece of wax
I feel a warm and cleansing glow.
Where my little spark of hope
can finally start to grow.
Freedom from abuse memories
that are pulled from my dark past
To be healed, respected and believed in
as I begin to shout, AI am free at last!
When confronting painful
issues through the quilt square, participants found
it was helpful to consciously remind themselves that
they were in a supportive and accepting environment.
It was a time to listen to and trust the encouraging
messages from others. It was important to allow one’s
inner wisdom to guide one’s sense of safety. Part of
grounding and being present would come from just being
yourself and knowing that you are OK. Cherlyn found,
“Being accepted and
able to ‘do my feelings’ eased my stress. Therefore
when I left I didn’t have pent up feelings, though
I was so mentally and physically exhausted! The
workshops were a validation of my worth. The way
we all supported one another helped my feelings
where I always wanted to isolate my self. I belonged!”
There were many common bonds
available for those sharing this artistic journey,
but after being terribly hurt when young it often
takes extra effort to let in the support and help
that is freely available. Letting support in means
not being alone, and it means nurturing trust and
patience in oneself and in others. Another workshop
“Be gentle with yourself.
Find support. You do not have to be alone anymore.
There are people who care and who have the experience
and the skill and the commitment to help.”
Maureen wrote after
“Gather a support group
— know that you will need nurturing — be overt
about it. Honour your gut feelings. Get involved
in a group that plays fun games — this can change
Half a year after completing her
quilt square Maureen designed and implemented
a play program as a means of closure to wind up
each workshop. Maureen’s called her program “Games
and Play as Recuperative Exit”. Her ideas were
of great benefit in helping workshop participants
(and staff too) in managing and getting rid of
some of the stress that could build up in the
sculpting and writing workshops.
I wanted your touch;
You touched me and I cried.
I needed your touch;
You touched me and I died.
I longed for your touch;
Your touch was denied.
I wanted your loving touch;
You gave me a stare.
I tried to earn your loving touch;
You gave me a dare.
I believed I had your loving touch;
Your loving touch was to beware.
I hated your touch;
You controlled me with touch.
I denied your touch;
You could do so much.
I avoided your touch;
You forced me to do such.
I feared your touch;
You offered acceptance.
I evaded your touch;
You provided a chance.
I felt your touch;
You gave me confidence.
Began in April 1997; But not finished
until the completion of "The Power of Touch”
Dare to Hope
I was born February 03/56 full of love, trust, hope
I had a Mind, Body and Soul.
Very early in life my Mind and Soul were violently torn
by the two people who gave me that life.
I was left with a Body.
My Body was Abused and Beaten on a daily basis.
“I” no longer existed;
“She” came and learned how to be obedient
and take the Abuse
without complaint. “She” was just an object
to be used.
“She became my Body.
At age 16 I trusted in someone enough to tell about
I truly believe I was on my way back.
I was beaten back to the shell that was “She”
to be protected once
more. “We” tried to destroy our body without
“We” just existed.
I learned, in 20 years, to use my Mind and think for
I took back my Mind.
At age 36, I reclaimed my life; Mind, Body and Soul.
I chose to
walk away from the abusers and learn to love and trust
I took back my Body.
I accepted myself for who I am and took responsibility
choices made but would not take responsibility for what
I had no
control over. I did not cause my Abuse!
“I took back my Mind, Body and Soul!”
I know I have a long way to go to fully believe and
trust in others
but I DARE to HOPE and I embrace LIFE!
I accept that – “I AM ME!”
That and More
I carefully step where not before have
With signposts of slow,
walk and run looming ahead
I'm testing the waters with my new found wings
Knowing that life's full of bruises and stings
I'll keep my head high
and let my hopes soar
Life can be joyous
I want that and more.