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On April 16, 2010, the Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area hosted an art exhibit at a local art gallery in Traverse City, Michigan. This exhibit showcased ‘shoe art’ from survivors of sexual assault. The survivors decorated shoes in a way that shared their experience of survival and their journey of healing.

This experience began with the Wednesday evening Survivors of Sexual Assault (S.O.S.) support group. WRC advocate intern Nicole Ball presented the idea to the group. Nicole’s vision included an alternative form of healing and personal growth for the survivors, where they could express their experiences to bring awareness to sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This project would also give the community an opportunity to “walk in their shoes.”

Through five weeks of workshops, survivors completed their shoes. During this time many members experienced breakthroughs in their personal healing. Most were empowered by the opportunity to not only share their experience publicly, but to also have a medium to artfully record their growth, strength, and survival.

The outcome of the event was powerful. A wide range of depth in the expressions of survival and healing were displayed for the community and the community responded with television news coverage, feature stories in local newspapers and raised awareness.

One survivor’s response to the event: “Members with typically sad faces and downcast gazes beamed with pride as visitors toured the exhibit tables. The gallery was abuzz with visitor compliments, dialogue with survivors, laughter and tears. S.O.S. members said it felt very unifying to host the exhibit with their fellow survivors and was very freeing to make their message public.”

It is our hope that through this anthology of survivor shoes and stories the ripples of empowerment will continue for others. We also hope to continue the awareness of sexual assault in our community by inviting you to take a walk “in her shoes.”
~ Nichole Ball

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