Unveiling Courage art exhibit gives sexual abuse survivors a voice

"What were you wearing?" is among the displays at the Unveiling Courage art exhibit to be shown at The Center for Family Justice's headquarters, 753 Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport, this Thursday evening.

Mannequins dressed in a variety of outfits, from sleeveless dresses and collared shirts to a T-shirt and shorts and a pair of medical scrubs, are included in the art display “What were you wearing?” It is meant to show the victim blaming many sexual assault victims face when people ask them that question.

“What were you wearing?” is among the many exhibits in Unveiling Courage: An Art Gallery Empowering Survivors, to be held at The Center for Family Justice’s headquarters in Bridgeport this Thursday, from 5 to 8 p.m., admission is free.

The show will include over 30 pieces of art highlighting the voices of survivors, who use different mediums to share their stories. Unveiling Courage was organized in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month.

“We know if our victims don’t have an outlet for expression the trauma can follow them the rest of their life, so we know how healing art can be,” said Debra A. Greenwood, president and CEO of The Center for Family Justice.

CFJ is collaborating with Metro Art Studios in Bridgeport and City Lights to offer art programs for young people and those affected by abuse and sexual violence.

Thursday’s show will include refreshments, visual arts and poetry in a tour of three levels at CFJ’s headquarters at 753 Fairfield Ave. Poetry will be performed during two sessions.

“We’ll have a trauma area for anyone who needs comfort with clinicians there in case someone is triggered,” Greenwood said. “Our staff will all be present to talk about the services we have if they need additional help.”

Now in its fifth year, the art show includes the works of survivors — male, female and LGBTQ+, whose ages range from their “late teens to mature adults and everything in between.”

CFJ’s art show traditionally featured a traveling display touring at college campus, starting at Sacred Heart University then being brought to Fairfield University and to the University of Bridgeport, before a last showing with a reception at Housatonic Community College.

This year it is not a traveling art display.

Aside from spreading awareness, Greenwood said the center hopes attendees of Unveiling Courage learn all that CFJ has to offer and will share that knowledge with anyone they know who needs its free and confidential support, which the center offers on a 24/7 basis.

Greenwood said CFJ strives to advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and social justice supporting individuals who need it, as well as teaching young people what healthy relationships and friendships are.

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