Art Therapy with Rape Victims

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Art therapy is used in many settings to aid in the treatment of victims through various populations. Art therapy is not only a creative outlet for patients, but it is also “used to encourage personal growth, increase self-understanding, and assist in emotional reparation” (Malchiodi, 2003). Art therapy is a way of giving the patients the opportunity to express their feelings in a way that is not too painful for them. The art therapy provided also enables the patient to express things that they may not be able to or want to articulate verbally. Art therapy is available to a variety of populations and settings. Art therapy is not only varied with its’ settings but “anyone can use it, you don’t need to be talented or an artist, and there are professionals that can work with you and delve into the underlying messages communicated through art” (What is Art Therapy?, 2008). The unique part about art therapy is that the patient can express themselves through any type of art. This may include drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography. Art therapy is a distinctive type of treatment that may be used in an assortment of populations and settings. Art therapy is also limitless with age. Art therapists may work with children, adolescents, adults, and families. One specific group art therapists can work with are victims of rape and sexual abuse. These patients may range anywhere in the age spectrum and can focus on males or females. Along with the rape and sexual abuse, art therapist may also help these patients with the post-traumatic stress they encounter after experiencing the rape or sexual abuse.

“Throughout our history, art has served as a visual record of cultural, social, and political issues of that time. On a personal level, art conveys the emotions, thoughts, feelings as well as the conflicts of the artist” (Brooke S. L., 1997). For victims of rape and sexual abuse the art work may show the feelings and conflict that they may not want to communicate verbally. Anyone that has been a victim of sexual abuse or rape “are temporarily vulnerable to developing emotional problems” (Brooke S. L., 1997). Art therapy is an innovative means of expression to repair these problems and ultimately aid these victims to get back to some sort of “normal” life.

Art therapy for victims of rape or sexual abuse has been seen to be used mainly for the female populations from childhood into the adult years. One specific study looked at treating depression, self-esteem, anxiety, and sexual trauma with 25 sexually abused girls from the ages of 8 to 11. “The purpose of this study was accordingly to evaluate a group art therapy programme — developed by the authors — for sexually abused girls in South Africa” (Pfeifer, 2010). During this study, researchers examined how art therapy may be an outlet for these girls to express any depression, pinned up anger, and any anxiety. The instruments used in this study included a scale rating trauma to indicate the amount of sexual trauma that has occurred and The Human Figure Drawing to measure self-esteem as well as depression and anxiety. This study found that art therapy “indicated a significant improvement in depression and anxiety” (Pfeifer, 2010). The study also found “a significant decrease in sexual trauma following art therapy” (Pfeifer, 2010). This study, overall, demonstrates that using art therapy for victims of rape and sexual greatly affects the decrease in depression, anxiety, and sexual trauma.

One therapist, Lynne Beldegreen, focuses her treatment on children and teenagers who have been victims of sexual abuse. Lynne is a certified Art Therapist and Psychotherapist that specializes in treating sexual abuse and trauma. “When Lynne is able to work with children or teens when they are still young they have a greater chance at having more integrated adult relationships when they get older” (Beldegreen, 2004). She also feels as though “treatment at this young age, considered early...
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