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The Healing Power of Words: Empowering Survivors of Sexual Assault Through Writing

Mary Simmerling, a Ph.D. student, found solace in writing poetry after experiencing sexual assault.

Survivor Turned Poet: Mary Simmerling’s Journey of Healing and Empowerment

In the bustling city of Chicago, Mary Simmerling, a dedicated Ph.D. student, found herself grappling with the aftermath of a traumatic sexual assault. Seeking solace and a sense of control, she turned to the written word, pouring her emotions and experiences into poetry. Little did she know that her personal journey would eventually inspire a movement, amplifying the voices of countless survivors and challenging societal attitudes towards sexual violence.

What I Was Wearing: A Poem That Sparked a Movement

One of Mary’s most poignant poems, “What I Was Wearing,” captured the essence of victim-blaming and the harmful stereotypes often associated with sexual assault. The poem’s raw honesty and evocative imagery resonated deeply with survivors, sparking a powerful art installation that paired survivors’ words with outfits representing their assault attire. This thought-provoking project, titled “What Were You Wearing?,” has since traveled the globe, raising awareness, challenging victim-blaming narratives, and fostering solidarity among survivors.

Write Where We Belong: A Safe Space for Survivors to Heal and Express

Mary’s unwavering commitment to empowering survivors led her to collaborate with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Together, they created “Write Where We Belong,” a transformative writing workshop designed to provide a safe and supportive space for survivors to express their experiences through the written word. As a trained facilitator, Mary guided participants through a series of writing exercises and discussions, fostering a sense of community and personal growth. The impact of the workshop was profound, with participants discovering the healing power of writing and finding solace in the shared experiences of their fellow survivors.

We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine: An Anthology of Resilience and Transformation

The culmination of the “Write Where We Belong” workshop was the publication of an anthology, aptly titled “We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine.” This powerful collection features the work of workshop participants, offering a glimpse into their journeys of healing, resilience, and transformation. The title, derived from Keena Hildebrand’s poem “I Am Everything,” encapsulates the indomitable spirit of the survivors, who have emerged from the depths of trauma with newfound strength and resilience. Keena’s personal journey, as chronicled in the anthology, exemplifies the transformative power of writing in fostering healing and self-discovery.

Healing and Empowerment Through Writing: Breaking the Silence and Reclaiming Power

Writing has emerged as a powerful therapeutic tool for survivors of sexual assault, providing a safe outlet for expressing the complex emotions and experiences that often accompany trauma. The act of writing allows survivors to process their experiences, gain a sense of control, and challenge the negative self-perceptions that may have been instilled by the assault. The anthology “We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine” stands as a testament to the healing and resilience that can be fostered through the written word. It is a call to break the silence surrounding sexual assault, to create safe spaces for survivors to share their stories, and to challenge the societal attitudes that perpetuate victim-blaming and shame.

What Were You Wearing? Art Installation: Challenging Victim-Blaming and Raising Awareness

The “What Were You Wearing?” art installation, an extension of Mary Simmerling’s powerful poem, has become a global symbol of solidarity and awareness for survivors of sexual assault. The installation pairs survivors’ words with outfits representing their assault attire, challenging victim-blaming narratives and highlighting the irrelevance of clothing in determining consent. The project has been exhibited at colleges, rape crisis centers, and military bases on six continents, sparking conversations, raising awareness, and showing survivors that they are not alone.

Online Book Launch Event: Celebrating the Power of Survivor Voices

To celebrate the publication of the anthology “We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine” and to honor the resilience of the survivors whose stories it contains, an online book launch event will be held on [date] at [time]. The event will feature readings from the anthology, as well as a panel discussion with survivors and advocates. This is an opportunity to come together, support the writers’ group’s efforts in raising awareness about sexual assault, and celebrate the power of survivor voices.

Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault: Support and Healing

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, there are resources available to provide support and guidance. RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), is available 24/7 to provide confidential support. Additionally, RAINN’s website offers a wealth of information, resources, and support options for survivors.

RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline provides confidential support 24/7.

Conclusion: A Collective Voice for Change

Mary Simmerling’s journey from survivor to poet to advocate has inspired countless individuals and sparked a global movement for change. Through her writing, her workshops, and the powerful art installation, she has given a voice to the voiceless, challenged societal attitudes towards sexual assault, and empowered survivors to reclaim their power. The anthology “We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine” is a testament to the resilience, strength, and healing that can be found through the written word. It is a call to action, urging us all to break the silence, challenge victim-blaming narratives, and create a world where survivors are heard, believed, and supported.