NEPA Scene Staff

Art exhibit will ‘Break the Silence’ on sexual violence at The Leonard in Scranton on Aug. 4

Art exhibit will ‘Break the Silence’ on sexual violence at The Leonard in Scranton on Aug. 4
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From a press release:

In the creation of “Break the Silence: An Art Exhibit for Sexual Violence Awareness,” campaign coordinator Stephanie Santore and photographer Ashley Matthews asked volunteers to step forward to reveal their personal experiences with sexual violence or abuse. They also welcomed supporters of the cause that included friends and family members of those affected to speak out against it.

The art exhibit will be hosted by The Leonard Theater in downtown Scranton on Friday, Aug. 4 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. as part of the First Friday Scranton art walk. Attendees can view the images and read the corresponding stories while obtaining information and resources that will be available in support of the cause and the efforts for its prevention within the community.

The event is free but will double as a fundraiser for the Women’s Resource Center. Monetary donations will be collected at The Leonard (335 Adams Ave., Scranton) to raise funds for the renovation of the Carriage House, a building that will provide adult and child victims of domestic and sexual violence a free, safe, and secure environment to live in while they locate permanent housing, employment, and/or educational opportunities to support their family.

“I knew Ashley would handle this subject and the volunteers with the utmost care and compassion while creating imagery that would speak to people – of the emotional process, the trauma, the resiliency, and the journey to recovery. She captured each emotion and story in an indescribable way,” Santore said.

“This project is purposefully personal. It allows for survivors and supporters to come together as a collective voice against sexual violence to help spread awareness of its existence and the need for action against it. Each experience is told through the individual in her own words coupled with an image that depicts a raw emotion drawn from their story.”

“Since I began photography full-time, I haven’t had time to do many personal projects and had been craving to create something experiential. Once Stephanie approached me about her campaign and idea, I was immediately drawn to her passion for her project and the idea of it,” Matthews explained.

“This particular subject is rough to talk about but it’s very important to me. We need to let everyone know that they are not alone. It’s something we all need to come together and break the silence of. I expect this to be a very emotional art exhibit, and I’m so grateful for the many volunteers that chose to share their stories and vulnerabilities.”

The full mission of the Break the Silence exhibit is posted below:

We can’t deny that violence occurs in our society and within our own communities. This violence will continue as long as sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression exist. We will continue to breed individual and societal environments that, to an extent, condone and excuse violence. This includes sexual assault and abuse. In order to fight for its prevention, we must also continue to work towards ending oppression across all spectrums of gender, race, class, and sexual orientation.

There is a need to talk about sexual violence more openly and without shame. We can no longer allow myths and misconceptions to dictate its handling in the aftermath and silence the affected. The more we talk, the more aware we become. And the clearer the picture, the clearer our understanding. There is still a need for change and it starts with us.

Perpetrators of sexual violence are, more often than not, no stranger at all to their victims. We, as a society, need to face the reality that sexual assault isn’t left to only the most severe and depraved criminals. The perpetrators are our friends, our siblings, our classmates, our co-workers, our spouses, our family members, our next-door neighbors.

With a better understanding of who commits sexual violence, we can shift the focus on what changes need to be made as individuals, as family units, and as a community to work towards its prevention before a violent crime has been committed and, if committed, ensure law enforcement and our justice system handle the crime efficiently. We must work together to alter the way in which our society views sexual violence, the perpetrators of this violence, and the survivors who endure the aftermath as a result.

The change can begin at home, at school, or at work. By promoting respect for all walks of life, we can inspire those around us to live with compassion, kindness, and equality. We can encourage healthy communication and the expression of emotions. We can educate on the recognition and definition of boundaries to our children and our peers. We can teach the understanding of consent and what it means to ask for it.

Discussions must be had about the way in which we conduct ourselves. We can no longer condone actions, physical or verbal, that make sexual violence in any way seem socially acceptable. We can no longer brush off particular conduct or commentary that is labeled as “typical.” We need to develop the skills from a young age to speak out against poor behavior and correct it before it leads to criminal actions that are irreversible, actions that will affect someone for the rest of their life. We can no longer be encouragers or bystanders of this behavior. We must speak out.

It is our responsibility to educate ourselves, to become aware, and to inform those around us that violent behavior, attitudes, or comments, sexual or otherwise, are not acceptable. We need to raise the standard for everyone within our social circle as well as up-and-coming generations.

For more information on the exhibit, see the Facebook event page.