The Art of Survival  is a growing gallery that showcases Jean's private collection of artwork created by survivors of sexual assault. 

Below is a short interview with Jean about The Art of Survival and more on supporting survivors. 

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Can you tell us a little about The Art of Survival?

“The Art of Survival” is the name I chose last fall for the events I was planning.  I was approached by Woman Made Gallery almost two years ago, and asked to display my collection of artwork created by rape and sexual abuse survivors during May of 2009.  It seemed a long way off at the time, but it got me thinking about what other organizations might be interested in displaying this artwork.  I contacted Rape Victim Advocates first, because one artist I was working with had been a volunteer there, and I also knew they’d had a funding cut and might be interested in new ideas for a fund-raising event.  Several months later I also contacted The Quetzal Center, and they were immediately interested in the possibility of doing this event in April of 2009.  So I had three events in the works in a fairly short period of time.

Can you tell us what has been the most rewarding part of running the show?

The most rewarding part for me, as always, is having people come up to me and thank me for sharing my experiences, and telling me how much it helps to hear people talk out loud, in public, about sexual abuse.

I know you've told me your husband has been supportive of you during these events and otherwise. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

My husband’s support is always a tricky subject for me.  I think men and women define “support” differently.  We’ve been married for 32 years, and one of the reasons we’re still together is we work hard at accepting and respecting each other’s boundaries.  I tend to take his help for granted, and assume his willingness to help, and sometimes it doesn’t happen.  He works very hard, and has a long commute, and I’ve learned over the past year that it’s wrong to ask for too much from him.  I need to continue putting together an informal network of like-minded people to support me.  It’s hard.  Everybody’s busy, and I can’t spend too much of my own money on these events anymore.  And many people, in the rush of emotion that comes sometimes after hearing me speak, will volunteer “to help” and when it comes time to follow through it doesn’t happen.  I’m trying to build a new partnership with The Quetzal Center that will better address my needs for help and support.

How do you feel a support system helps survivors of sexual assault? 

No one heals from sexual assault without a support system.  It’s one of the most ungrounding, isolating experiences you can go through.  I’ve noticed sometimes that survivors in the early stages of healing need to talk and talk and talk.  I know I wore many people out during this stage.  I feel strongly that even individual therapy doesn’t address a survivor’s need to hear other people talk about sexual assault and abuse.  That’s the only way a survivors learns that she/he is not alone.  A friend of mine once mentioned “innocence by association.”  I know I blamed myself for what had happened to me for most of my life.  I had to listen to other people – people I knew were innocent – in order to stop beating up on myself.

What advice would you give to those who are there to support survivors of sexual assault?

The most important thing people can do to support survivors is just listen.  Don’t judge.  Take a step outside your normal boundaries and try to remember that there are many people out there whose family and life experiences are vastly different from yours.


I once heard another speaker give a model for “what to say” when someone tells you they’ve been abused.


First:  Tell them you’re sorry it happened to them.


Second:  Ask how you can help.

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Jean with a piece from her collection. Artwork by: Liz Moretti


Artist Liz Moretti at The Art of Survival. 


 Jean and Liz with Liz's artwork.

Photos by: Julie Sadowski,

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