IONIA, Mich. - Sometimes a paper and pencil is the gateway to healing.
And healing is exactly what victims of domestic and sexual abuse are finding, thanks to a new art class.
Drawing lessons with Ionia artist Vivian Grady started out as a community service project, but became so much more to the victims and staff of RAVE house. Many say it's a huge part of a long road to recovery.
"It got to be to the point, where I would hate when he would come home," says a domestic violence survivor who wished to stay anonymous. "I couldn't speak out about it because of fear of what might happen to me and finally I stood up and said 'enough is enough.'"
She lived in fear of her husband for several years. Finding shelter at RAVE house, she's begun to heal from that abuse, lately with the help of an artist.
"There's so many parts of healing from domestic violence that nobody really knows about and I've had a lot of levels that I've gone through, and I'm still fighting things and the drawing takes me away from that negativity," she says.
"People are more comfortable with themselves and their drawing. Some who haven't ever drawn before, all of a sudden find that they can and they actually are beginning to see and feel more self-accepting of their abilities to create," said Vivian Grady, Isabelle Phoenix Gallery Artist and Owner.
Grady leads the drawing class for the domestic violence and sexual abuse victims, getting a firsthand look at how it begins to heal old wounds.
"When I'm sitting with people and they're drawing, I see them glow. They just develop themselves, and that's everything," says Grady.
The quiet of the drawing class often offers a sanctuary in a house of victims with ranging emotions.
"The shelter can be a pretty chaotic place to be in, so it's really provided a very calming, soothing time for these woman to kind of just be," says Jennifer Butler, RAVE house Executive Director.
Despite a long journey ahead for some of the women here, the class offers a place they can ‘just be’ while on the road to becoming survivors.
"My newest drawing is going to be a Phoenix that rises out of the ashes and it's like showing that you're a survivor and I'm a survivor on many different levels now," says one survivor.
Drawing classes take place every Tuesday. Vivian Grady and RAVE staff say they hope to see the program grow. If you'd like to donate to the RAVE house click here.