When I was very young, my mother left my father. He had just beaten her pretty badly, and in the brief moment my father stepped outside, she ran frantically into my room and told me that we had to go and that we had to go NOW. We ended up at my aunt’s place, who hid us in her trailer, and drove us the next day out from New York to Florida. I spent that summer living in a motor home, bathing in public parks, and on the run from my father. Soon afterwards, however, we returned to New York because my father threatened to kill himself if my mother did not return. What I remember most about this experience is how no one, apart from my aunt, believed my mother or acknowledged her fear. But still we were lucky, because although he threatened to kill her, he never did. In Puerto Rico, where my family is from, others have not been so lucky. Current estimates are that, in Puerto Rico, a woman is killed every week, making it a site with the highest per capita femicide rate in the world for girls and women over the age of fourteen (ACLU, nd).
This year I have been fortunate to receive a generous grant, called the Time Out Grant, from Vassar College (my alma mater) that will allow me create a series of art-based photovoice workshops, to be completed during my sabbatical, that would help document the experiences of survivors of gender-based violence (i.e. GBV) in Puerto Rico. The ultimate goal would be to use art to increase awareness about this issue and in order to facilitate social change - so that no one could say, as they did to my mother, “we didn’t know” or “it couldn’t have been that bad”. I plan to use this blog to document my experiences with the project and write down what I am learning about the process of photovoice and most importantly, about the use of creative therapies to grow and heal.