Survivor Spotlight: Dana and Shawn-Yolanda

For many survivors of sexual assault, finding a creative outlet can be a tremendous source of healing. Whether through painting, poetry or music, many survivors find solace and support through art. In honor of Art Appreciation Month, Shawn-Yolanda and Dana, two Speakers Bureau members, share how artistic expression has transformed their healing processes and connected them to other survivors.

Sexual assault survivor Shawn-Yolanda portraitShawn-Yolanda Cobb Roseborough

Shawn-Yolanda Cobb Roseborough is the author of two poetry memoirs (“Entreat: A Heartfelt Petition,” and “Entreat: Inside A Child's Tears”) who finds comfort and expression through her writing. She says writing has helped her cope with the multiple assaults she experienced through childhood and young adulthood, as well as connect with other survivors.

“[The most recent assault] sent me on a path I didn't think I would ever recover from, and it triggered everything from my past traumas, which caused major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and flashbacks,” said Shawn-Yolanda. “I even got to the point that I didn't want to live anymore. But I got help.”

Shawn-Yolanda says that a phone call to the National Sexual Assault Hotline helped put her “on the right path.”

“They were there for me from the beginning, from when I first went to their website and then called the hotline,” she said. “They provided me with the right resources. Without RAINN’s help, I would not be where I am today.”

On her path to recovery, Shawn-Yolanda got creative and discovered that poetry has been one of her best tools. “I started writing when I was about 8 years old, keeping a diary and writing little poems,” she said. “After the last sexual assault, I knew that I had to do something to help me deal with all the emotions I was feeling. So I started writing poems again.”

Poetry writing has helped Shawn-Yolanda cope with flashbacks and depression. “Writing has also helped me connect with other survivors in a way that I didn't expect,” she said. “It’s helped me realize that I am not alone in dealing with the sexual violence that happened in my past.”

Shawn-Yolanda has some suggestions for other survivors: “I strongly advise you first, if needed, to seek out help and support. Don't try to deal with your feelings alone. Talk to somebody. Write down what you are feeling. Draw, paint or express yourself with music. If you have a bad day, talk about it. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself.”

Read Shawn-Yolanda's poems.

Sexual assault survivor Dana portrait

Dana Marsh

For survivor Dana Marsh, music has been an instrumental component of her healing. For over 15 years, she has been writing music and confronting the darkest moments of her abuse.

“Just knowing that being brutally honest will somehow help another victim transform into a survivor is enough to continue my healing,” says Dana.

“There was one morning, I just had the words in my head, and spent an entire day at the piano pouring my pain into this song,” she said. “I wanted to be raw about how damaging sexual violence can be to the victim, but also get some personal closure. Because my abuser was never properly punished, my dreams of justice through the song almost provided that for me.”

Dana was sexually abused and raped as a child, by a person she knew and came in contact with regularly. “He had physical and emotional control over me, and by the time the abuse was discovered, I had been brainwashed into believing every act that occurred was just as much my fault as it was his,” said Dana.

Growing up, Dana was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. She says that she also engaged in self-harm and had suicidal intentions.

To other survivors, Dana says, “Don’t let invalidation stand in your way of sharing your story. As I say in my blog, ‘It may get uncomfortable, but part of awareness is making the horror that we survivors see known, so we can open the eyes of those who might otherwise never understand.’”

Read Dana’s blog After Silence, and listen to her song “Will She Sing.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org.

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