Survivors of Sexual Violence Find Empowerment Through Vt. Art Show

The new exhibit was timed for sexual violence awareness month

April is sexual violence awareness month, and to join the observances nationwide, survivors in Vermont are sharing artwork inspired by their personal experiences.

The Hive Collective off Pine Street in Burlington is hosting a new exhibit organized by the survivors’ council of H.O.P.E. Works. The non-profit aims to end sexual violence through healing, outreach, prevention, and empowerment.

Among the artists sharing their work in the show is Toni-Lee Sangastiano, a survivor of long-term stalking and cyber-stalking who said she endured angry messages, threats to her safety, and other forms of intimidation and harassment for years from an angry ex.

Sangastiano said she hopes the exhibit leads to greater understanding of sexual violence in our communities.

“The fact there is the #MeToo movement, and these high-profile cases in the media, and an art show like this—it just raises awareness of how prevalent sexual violence is, and how many survivors and victims there are out there,” Sangastiano said.

Cathleen Barkley, the executive director of H.O.P.E. Works, said making art can be helpful for some survivors as they process their emotions.

“Words aren’t enough to express the complexity of emotions that you might feel following an act of sexual violence, so I feel as though art is a really important healing tool for many people,” Barkley told necn.

The art show runs through Wednesday, April 18 at the Hive Collective at 420 Pine Street, behind Speeder and Earl’s Coffee.

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