Art is a non-verbal means of expression that bypasses cognitive barriers and enables children to make emotional breakthroughs that simply wouldn’t be possible without AWBW. The following story from Martha Castillo of Angel Step Inn Domestic Violence Services gives a glimpse into how art provides a turning point for children surviving trauma.
Danny was 11 years old. His father abused him verbally and physically. He also witnessed his mother and younger brother being abused. He would get so upset when his mother and father fought that he would vomit.
Repeatedly his dad would lock Danny in a small room and threaten to leave him behind and take his mother and brother away. Still, with the abuse he witnessed and experienced, it was hard for Danny to see his father as a monster. He blamed himself and didn’t want his dad to go because he loved him.
“This is the door that stopped me from being free. I was never able to reach for the key…it was just hanging on the wall.”
I did the “Monster in Me” project with Danny. It was a turning point with him. When asked what his art would say if it could talk, Danny shared, “It would be insulting me.” He also said, “This is the door that stopped me from being free. I was never able to reach for the key…and it was just hanging on the wall.”
As a result of the art workshops, Danny became more open about his feelings and easy to talk to. He was able to be more expressive about what he endured. He was not as angry anymore. He seemed to be surer of himself and appeared to trust others more. He developed a sense of confidence that was not there when he first arrived at the shelter. Before, he wasn’t interested in school and he didn’t care about getting good grades. Now, he goes to school with pleasure again!
Without the art, there would still be a big monster inside the boy’s mind. The art allowed the young boy to express his deepest fears and to know where the pain was coming from. He was also able to understand that he is not to blame for his father’s actions.