Healing Through Community, Honesty and Hope

Violence, trauma, and poverty are deeply interrelated. As one of the largest anti-poverty organizations in Chicago, Heartland Alliance sees the impact of violence on our participants every day. Our Violence Recovery Services (VRS) program serves survivors of domestic violence – an act that is often shrouded around stigma and silence. Many who experience it are often left to cope on their own – attempting to manage the trauma behind closed doors. At VRS, however, participants get a chance to heal through community, honesty, and hope.

Adriana Garcia, director of VRS, oversaw a recent celebration that brought survivors together through artistic expression – it was a time to acknowledge, educate, and celebrate the successes that survivors have achieved. By creating silhouettes that mirror their truest selves, participants in the program were given an opportunity to discard the “victim” and redefine themselves.

The collages, created by VRS participants who are impacted by domestic violence, served as an outlet to help heal from trauma.

“This was a chance to be creative and expressive. Having the ability to talk about trauma without talking, our participants are able to find their own strength and pride.”

The VRS team serves people from all walks of life who have experienced domestic violence – men, women, children, seniors, people of all backgrounds – and that diversity was represented at the event. Participants who came together were unified by a shared strength – an acknowledgement of having experienced trauma but also of having refused to give up hope and are on a journey of healing.

“Participating in something like this is no easy task. People have to get to the point where they are comfortable with speaking openly about their traumas,” Adriana explained. “You have to be okay with being vulnerable and realizing you have support.”

Often times it is that very realization – that one isn’t alone – that creates the strength to move forward. Heartland Alliance’s trauma-informed philosophy recognizes that trauma is often a shared experience, and it is through that same sharing that many survivors find a path toward healing.

For many of the participants, the event was also chance to shine a light on domestic violence, an act that thrives on silence. This artistic expression was a way to take control – expressing that domestic violence no longer has the shroud of silence it needs to continue.

“These people want to bring awareness to domestic violence. This is a chance for them to feel part of something bigger. People are the experts of their own lives, we’re just here to help them identify their strengths to help them move forward.”