By Ruben Renteria
Traumatic events can leave physical and emotional damage for those involved. There is a new group on that campus offers the university community an opportunity to receive support and express themselves artistically.
The Women’s Community Healing Project is led by Bianca Sapet, program coordinator for the Center for Women in Church and Society. Sapet’s idea for the project arose from her previous experience in prevention and intervention work with Peace Initiative, where she helped young former gang members and elderly people learn how to express themselves in positive ways.
Before the project’s launch this semester, Sapet collaborated with Professor Deborah Vasquez, head of the art department, to tailor a program that revolved around art and domestic violence prevention and intervention.
When you walk inside Sapet’s office, you see art. Everything from little sculptures to paintings on the wall – it is clear to any visitor that art is Sapet’s outlet for expression. In turn, her passion for art and helping others led her to help the students here on campus.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy improves or restores an individual’s personal well-being by helping people, “resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress and achieve personal insight.”
For Sapet, the intention of the project is to help students who struggle with issues of self-identity, self-esteem and sexual trauma. Students are given a general idea about the activities for each session, but they never know what to expect until the actual sessions begin.
For Jessica Tafolla, a student and an assistant programmer for the Center for Women in Church and Society, the sessions are a place where students can confront difficult issues they face in their lives.
“It is a safe area for a person to show their emotion physically, emotionally and mentally,” Tafolla said.
Tafolla is one of the five girls who attended the first sessions and she said she has become more and more comfortable with the sessions over time.
“I felt that everybody was open with one another and there was no judgment at all,” Tafolla said.
In one particular session, Sapet asked her students to write out a painful memory and then to cover it up with paint. This process allowed the students to express themselves on paper and discover how they felt seeing, feeling, hearing and talking about their experiences. For the students, their reactions were a test to find out if they were OK remembering the experience and if they thought they could overcome it.
Marissa Sellers, a student and an assistant programmer for Center for Women in Church and Society and W.C.H.P. attendee said, the sessions have helped her live a less stressful life. For Seller, bonding with the girls in these sessions has helped her see them in a more unified light.
“When I see others open up during sessions, it’s made me realize that we are a community of students facing stresses and difficult times together,” Seller said “Sometimes we need to revisit the past ,or even the present, to help resolve the underlying cause of emotions.”
Spanish sessions are held every Wednesday from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Fine Arts Room 203 and English sessions are held every Thursday at the same time. For more information on the Women’s Community Healing Project, email Bianca Sapet at firstname.lastname@example.org.