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Daily Hampshire Gazette – Art as Healing: Safe Passage launches new anthology project to give survivors of domestic violence the space to tell their stories

Northampton-based Safe Passage launched “Survival & Beyond: A Survivor Anthology” at a Forbes Public Library event on Tuesday.  The anthology gives domestic violence survivors like Peggy a chance to heal through essays, poetry and other art forms.  At right is Catherine Hodes, a domestic violence survivor and director of community programs at Safe Passage.

Northampton-based Safe Passage launched “Survival & Beyond: A Survivor Anthology” at a Forbes Public Library event on Tuesday. The anthology gives domestic violence survivors like Peggy a chance to heal through essays, poetry and other art forms. At right is Catherine Hodes, a domestic violence survivor and director of community programs at Safe Passage.
STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

NORTHAMPTON — For victims of domestic violence, speaking out about their experiences can be terrifying and liberating at the same time.

With the launch of its new anthology project this week, Safe Passage – the longtime Northampton nonprofit whose mission is to end domestic violence and help survivors – aims to provide a space for survivors across the country to share their stories across a variety of mediums. narrate.

The idea for the anthology project came from Alec Reitz, a volunteer program manager at Safe Passage, who was inspired after seeing “Angels in America,” a play by Tony Kushner about the AIDS epidemic. Reitz was struck by a particular monologue from the character Prior Walter, in which he says, “I’ve been through such terrible times and there are people who are going through much worse times. But you still see them alive… If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate. But still bless me. I want to live more.”

The idea of ​​”more life” sparked the anthology idea in Reitz, who saw it as a way to combine their studies in publishing with Safe Passage’s mission to help survivors, and the “transformative role art can play in healing” , they said.

“Relationship abuse is sometimes called the invisible epidemic,” says Reitz. “Silence and misinformation are critical in fueling the epidemic… what we don’t see is easy to ignore.”

Through collective efforts over a year, “Survival & Beyond: A Survivor Anthology” was born. The goal of Safe Passage is to produce a new anthology twice a year.

Anyone can submit their writing, poetry and art to the anthology, which hopes to share many unique experiences and healing journeys as a way to break the silence surrounding domestic violence. A number of those who contributed to the project attended an official launch at the Forbes Library this week, most of whom chose to remain anonymous or reveal only their first names to protect their identities.

“I started writing for a number of reasons. First, my therapist encouraged me to write my story, and second, I wanted to understand it,” says Peggy, one of the contributors. “When I write my own story and put it on paper, I gain clarity, but I also get something of myself in return.”

Peggy has now written more than a dozen essays and a dozen poems about her journey to healing from narcissistic domestic violence. She is also a team member at Safe Passage and has worked to make the anthology a reality.

“Silence will not change domestic violence,” she said. “When we see it, we have to call it what it is.”

Rose, a photographer and writer, contributed a piece titled “Weed,” which simultaneously explores a life-altering chronic illness diagnosis and rediscovers the meaning of love in the wake of relationship violence.

“I wrote the piece in 20 minutes,” Rose said. “I wanted to tell the truth, so I just let it out.”

R. Joseph Rodriguez, a poet, educator, editor, and researcher from Austin, Texas, contributed several poems to the anthology. One of these poems, titled “Self in 1985,” is inspired by the work of acclaimed poet Anne Sexton, who Rodriguez called an “eyes wide open poet.”

“It’s autobiographical and about a young survivor,” says Rodriguez, who often uses poetry as a vehicle to explore difficult topics with his students.

The first edition of the anthology is now available in print and digitally. The next edition will be published in October and will be accepting submissions.

The anthology is run entirely by volunteers and hopes to “not only help survivors process their trauma, but also give them the space to feel empowered and share their stories,” said Silas Clish, communications director for Safe Passage.

“The survivor experience doesn’t end once you leave an abusive relationship,” Reitz says. “Everyone’s healing experience is different.”

Alexa Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.

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