Free writing workshop for survivors of sexual abuse and violence

BRATTLEBORO — In anticipation of National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, Brooks Memorial Library, The Women's Freedom Center, and The Commons are collaborating with writer and educator Deborah Lee Luskin in Telling Our Stories, a free writing workshop for survivors of sexual abuse and violence.

Luskin will facilitate the workshop at the library, 224 Main St., on three Saturdays: March 14 and 21 and April 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. An advocate from the Women's Freedom Center will be present to offer support as needed.

The workshop is free, and participants are encouraged to attend as many sessions as possible.

Telling Our Stories will culminate in a public reading at the library on Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Survivors willing to share their work with the community can submit it to a special section of the Voices section of The Commons; provisions will be available to do so anonymously, if necessary.

In a news release, Luskin says the goal of Telling Our Stories is two-fold.

“First, by sharing our stories, we hope to make known how many of us have survived sexual abuse and assault, and by doing so, help end it. We also aim to teach those entrusted with our stories of harm how to respond respectfully and responsibly.

“I experienced first-hand how a survivor can be re-victimized by those who don't want to hear her story - and so the curtain of silence falls on what is an all-too common occurrence in the lives of women and girls.”

As revealed in accounts from Anita Hill's remarkable testimony during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991 to that of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavenaugh in 2018, uncounted and unnamed women and girls have suffered sexual violence in silence. More recently, women in entertainment and politics have spoken up.

“But speaking out is difficult,” Luskin says. “Women who tell their stories are not always believed and are often blamed for their perpetrators' behavior. Nor is hearing our stories of sexual abuse and assault pleasant. Worse, it's often easier to bury our stories than to hold influential men who have preyed upon us accountable.

“It seems nearly impossible for ordinary women without the cachet of fame, beauty, or influence to speak out. In Windham County, we have a chance to change this pattern by telling our stories and teaching our audience how we can be heard.”

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