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We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine: An Anthology of Healing and Empowerment for Sexual Assault Survivors

In a world marred by the shadow of sexual assault, survivors are often left struggling to find their voices amidst the trauma’s deafening echoes. This article delves into the transformative power of writing as a tool for healing and empowerment for those who have endured the horrors of sexual assault. We journey alongside Mary Simmerling, a Ph.D. graduate and sexual assault survivor, as she embarks on a mission to create a platform for survivors to express their experiences through poetry.

The Power of Poetry: A Healing Balm for Survivors

Mary Simmerling’s Journey: From Trauma to Transformation

In the midst of pursuing her Ph.D. dissertation, Mary Simmerling found herself writing poetry as a means of processing her own experience as a rape survivor. Her raw and powerful words resonated with other survivors, leading to the creation of an art installation titled “What I was wearing.” This installation paired survivors’ words with outfits representing what they wore during the assault, challenging societal misconceptions and victim-blaming.

Healing through Expression: Poetry as a Catalyst for Change

For Simmerling, poetry became a medium for healing and self-expression, allowing her to process her trauma and forge connections with others who had experienced similar horrors. The “What Were You Wearing” art installation provided a visual representation of survivors’ experiences, challenging societal misconceptions and victim-blaming.

The RAINN Writers’ Group: A Haven for Survivors to Share Their Stories

Write Where We Belong: Creating a Space for Healing and Empowerment

Inspired by the profound healing power of writing, Simmerling proposed the idea of a writing workshop within the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) to Scott Berkowitz, the organization’s president and founder. The workshop, aptly named Write Where We Belong, aimed to create a supportive and empowering space for survivors to share their stories through writing.

Building Community and Connection: Solidarity in the Face of Trauma

The Write Where We Belong workshop brought together survivors from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of community and solidarity among them. Members found solace in knowing they were not alone in their experiences and gained strength from each other’s resilience and determination to heal.

The Anthology: A Collective Voice Rising from the Ashes

A Collective Voice: Shattering the Silence and Challenging Stigma

The RAINN writers’ group embarked on a transformative journey of writing and sharing their experiences, culminating in the publication of an anthology titled “We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine.” This powerful anthology features poems, essays, and personal narratives from members of the workshop, offering a diverse range of perspectives on sexual assault and its aftermath.

Empowerment through Storytelling: Reclaiming Narratives and Inspiring Change

The anthology serves as a powerful tool for empowerment, allowing survivors to reclaim their narratives and challenge the stigma surrounding sexual assault. By sharing their stories, the authors hope to raise awareness, promote healing, and inspire others to speak out against sexual violence.

The Art of Writing and Healing: A Path to Transformation

The Amherst Writers & Artists Method: A Nurturing Environment for Creative Expression

The RAINN writers’ group adopted the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, which emphasizes equality, trust, and openness among group members. This method values each person’s unique voice and encourages positive feedback, creating a safe space for survivors to express themselves without judgment.

Transformation through Writing: Uncovering Strength and Resilience

The writing process itself became a therapeutic tool for survivors, allowing them to explore their emotions, gain self-awareness, and find healing through creative expression. Over time, members of the group experienced personal growth and transformation, recognizing the power of writing to facilitate change and resilience.

Conclusion: A Beacon of Hope and Solidarity

The RAINN writers’ group, Write Where We Belong, and the resulting anthology, “We’ve Been Put Through the Fire and Come out Divine,” stand as testaments to the transformative power of writing for survivors of sexual assault. Through poetry, essays, and personal narratives, the authors share their journeys of healing, empowerment, and resilience, challenging societal stigmas and inspiring others to break the silence surrounding sexual violence. The anthology serves as a beacon of hope and solidarity, reminding survivors that they are not alone and that their voices matter.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, please know that you are not alone. There are resources available to help you heal and reclaim your life. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or visit their website at for more information.