Sticks and Stones: The Power of Words to Hurt, Heal and Prevent
Here is blog by Leona Smith Di Faustino that first appeared on CALCASA’s blog about the links between art, healing and prevention.
I recently came upon a healing medium for sexual trauma survivors called Project Unbreakable: The beginning of healing through art. Grace Brown, a photographer that uses her craft to help survivors heal from sexual trauma, photographs survivors holding up posters with quotes from their attackers. The pictures are shocking and so poignant that I’m compelled to provide a caveat for those that may click on the link provided because the power of these words may just “hurt” you.
When I was first learning the ropes of prevention work a colleague and dear friend of mine that I often shadowed during presentations would start off with discussing the power of words. She’d ask the group what they thought about the old nursery rhyme about stick and stones and words never hurting anyone. It was rare to have some one say words never hurt, in fact audience members would go on in great detail about the power of words and both the positive and negative effects they have on individuals.
It was during my clinical work with clients that I really discovered how powerful words can be for an individual. Those words of reassurance and validation I provided during sessions when they were at their lowest in their process. The little spoken words of epiphany they often experienced when as one client remarked, she was able to connect the dots of how it really wasn’t “her fault”. Yet there were still words that could halt the process of healing, stop a survivor in her/his proverbial tracks if you will, and send her/him spiraling back to that moment in time when another chose to harm them.
Those words were ones of rage, lust, and at the most heartbreakingly hurtful, ones of a perverted love. The, “Don’t worry you’ll like this”, “This is how we show love”, or “Sluts like you deserve this” words that haunted survivor’s each day to the next. As a clinician I could sit there and point out the fallacy of such statements until I was blue in the face but the words often still hung there between us, permeating the healing process until the survivor learned not necessarily how to make the words never hurt them, but to deconstruct the power they held over them.This type of deconstruction can have many facets and manifest itself in a variety of ways for survivors. Project Unbreakable happens to be one of the most visually compelling of them.