In observation of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, the Child and Family Center hosted its 2nd annual “A Night of Expression,” which sought to share the stories of local teens who have experienced dating violence.
The free art exhibit featured 16 different pieces of art composed by 14 students and a speech from a survivor. Dozens were in attendance for the event and a collection of local organizations fighting domestic violence and other ills were on hand to provide pamphlets and speak with onlookers.
“All of the artwork featured in the exhibition depicted abusive adolescent relationships,” said Leah Parker, a youth prevention specialist at the Child and Family Center.
“A lot of people aren’t comfortable speaking, but they know how to do art, video (and) poetry, so we wanted to give them a chance to be part of the movement,” Parker said. “It gives students the opportunity to share their emotional and physical pain and inform others that they aren’t alone.”
Sculptures and various styles of paintings and drawings were displayed at the exhibition. Some were created by artists as young as junior high and depicted metaphors of the predatory nature of abusers, while others stated themes as simple as, “It’s not your fault.”
“A Walk In Their Shoes” was one piece that used different pairs of shoes to tell the stories of four local teens who were victims of violent relationships, Parker said. An artist painted and decorated them to share the stories of three survivors — two females and one male — while the final pair illustrates the story of a female who lost her life at the hands of her abuser.
“Anytime I found myself pregnant, he would beat me until I miscarried. My punishment for getting pregnant,” the piece stated, mentioning the victim found safety and blossomed into a new person while in a domestic violence shelter. “At the end of my 30 days at the shelter, there was no transitional housing available to me anywhere because of my age and marital status. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to return to my hometown (and) it wasn’t long before my abuser found me. I was 19 when he killed me.”
Stories like this exemplify the importance of informing others that they aren’t alone, Parker said, and why the Child and Family Center will always have a room in the shelter that’s reserved for single people.
Junior high student Sophia Campos was one of the students who crafted a piece for the exhibition. She would later win the exhibition’s viewer’s choice award for her painted piece.
“These things aren’t your fault and you shouldn’t be scared to seek out help in any way,” Campos said, echoing sentiments that were touched on by a survivor who spoke during the event.
“We’re really hoping to keep it going and offer more ways for students to get involved,” Parker said. “We’re looking for new avenues and are open to including more categories of art next year.”