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      Survivors of sexual assault speak out through art

      April is Sexual Assault Awareness month , and the Women's Resource Center in Traverse City is giving survivors of sexual violence in our community the opportunity to raise awareness through creative expression.

      "It's really devastating," said Nancy Bordine, sexual assault survivor. "And it just keeps hurting in new ways... every year it hurts in a new way."

      They're stories of violence, pain and betrayal that never seem to go away, but these images are paving the way to stories of courage and healing.

      "Survivors in that group are some of the most amazing, talented artists," said Aimee Sandula, lead advocate at the Women's Resource Center in Traverse City. "It just comes from their soul and from their spirit."

      Survivors of sexual assault are turning up the volume on what is widely known as a "silent crime" with statistics that don't lie: One in three women and one in six men are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.

      "Somebody did this to us, but the consequences go on and on and on," said Bordine.

      But through photographs, words, and the artists themselves... in an effort to end sexual violence, working with the Women's Resource Center, these survivors are speaking out. Loudly.

      "This is a picture of me," said Libby Wendell, sexual assault survivor, as she pointed to her work of art. "It says, 'freedom begins now,' and it's basically like, I just always felt trapped and I realized that if I put healing first, then I'll finally be free from all of the effects that come from just being so broken from what has happened."

      "We're feeling more whole," said Bordine. "And we're feeling safer. It's really rewarding to share that with our families and to share that with the community."

      Although it's something these survivors deal with every day, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, they're hoping that by reliving their pain, and using their strength, they can prevent their story from becoming someone else's.

      "It does impact us, said Sandula. "And the more opportunities we have to talk about it, to come out and hear some of the stories and give people a voice, to talk about their experiences... That's really how we're going to start to end it."

      If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual or domestic violence, please call the Women's Resource Center's 24-hour crisis hotline: 800-554-4972.

      If you are in the northern Michigan area and need help, the Women's Resource Center in Traverse City is located at 720 S. Elmwood, Suite 2, Traverse City, Mich. 49684.

      Benzie County: 231-882-2202

      Kalkaska County: 231-258-4691

      Leelanau County: 231-256-0234