Sylvia M. Gutierrez

"We Were Your Daughters" was submitted by Silvia M. Gutierrez, a survivor from California. Her message: I was sexually abused by my father. All of my sisters were sexually abused by my father. We were his daughters. All we wanted was love.

View the Corazón Lastimado: Healing the Wounded Heart™ Survivor Art exhibit

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Various Artists
sponsored by Arte Sana

March 2002 --- The Corazón Lastimado: Healing the Wounded Heart™ survivor art exhibit offers visual testimony to the impact of sexual violence in our lives by offering survivors and those who work with them wooden hearts to use as vehicles of expression and healing. The project, begun in March 2001 as a collaboration between sexual assault programs in Texas and La Peña Latino Arts Organization, is now a program of Arte Sana (art heals), a non-profit organization that believes in the intrinsic healing power of art and culture and is dedicated to building bridges between underserved survivors of color and advocates who work to prevent gender violence and racism.

While rape, sexual assault, and incest continue to be underreported crimes that impact our communities on a daily basis. In most cases the perpetrators are family members, partners, or acquaintances.

Often due to shame or fear of the reaction from family or the community, many victims suffer in silence and never receive the validation nor the medical or emotional attention they deserve. Furthermore, because we often doubt the validity of rape victims' experiences, rape is the least reported crime of all despite the fact that one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes. Furthermore, about three percent of American men – a total of 2.78 million men have also experienced rape at some point in their lives. For the few who do choose to share their experience, justice is not a guarantee. Very few rapists are ever convicted while less than two percent actually service time in prison.


This year, as in previous ones, over 50 percent of those who submitted these pieces were abused at age 15 or younger. Due to the nature of the themes of this exhibit, some of the artwork displayed may be explicit and potentially disturbing to some, especially young children. Parental guidance is advised.

For many survivors of sexual abuse, the first step towards healing is breaking the silence. Some may choose to tell their stories in words while others may choose alternative vehicles of expression such as the creative arts. Historically, art has always served various purposes, from advertising political power to embodying ideology. But even in its most public form its true audience is an audience of one and its true function is to inspire, absorb and reflect deep emotions. Through art, many survivors find themselves able to express issues related to their victimization and healing more clearly and safely than with words. Through the sharing of their experiences, many survivors are finally able to find the release they seek and the freedom they’ve lost -- on their own terms.

We invite you to share their stories. 

Special Thanks

Arte Sana would like to express appreciation to all of the artists who participated in this exhibit. The art, the stories, and the messages have impacted many in a significant way and will continue do so for quite some time. Through participation in this exhibit, survivors have assumed a proactive role in validating, educating, and demanding that the human and legal rights of victims of sexual violence be respected. Arte Sana would also like to acknowledge those who were not able to complete their work, but who have nonetheless begun a process of expression and healing.

Also, thank you to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs and to the Houston Area Women’s Center for collaborating with Arte Sana’s Capacitadoras en Acción (trainers in action) international resource sharing component of the art exhibit.

Artwork Collaborators

Thank you to the following centers and organizations that facilitated the participation of their clients and staff in this art exhibit:

Family Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Center of South Texas
The Women's Shelter, Inc.
Wintergarden Women's Shelter, Inc.
Rape Crisis Center of Collin County
Rape Crisis Center - San Antonio, TX
Williamson County Crisis Center
Opening Closed Doors
Communities In Schools, Mendez Middle School
Family Crisis Center - Bastrop, TX
The Magdalene Foundation
Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs
Women's Center of Northeastern Connecticut
Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence, Oregon
North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault
A Window Between Worlds, California
Alternativas Pacificas, Monterrey, México

A special thank you to the advocates from Argentina who had to overcome incredible obstacles to participate, while some were able to send their artwork others had to rely on technology to transmit their images.

Casa de la Mujer, Argentina
Grupo Desde el Pie, Argentina


Excerpt from a 2002 entry:

I began this project as an advocate (counselor) with years of experience in helping others with their pain. I ended the project a survivor of my own abuse. I had chosen to forget or had somehow hidden away my abuse and not looked at it for all of these years. I had convinced myself that it was a cultural difference, a natural and normal adjustment that all married couples face. I had originally made a very safe heart, one that showed my role as “helper/healer.” It was not until I had really looked at that heart that I finally ripped away all of my protective coverings and put my own raw emotions out on the table along with the glue and the pencils and papers and the other materials that I had collected to work on the project. I ripped everything off from that original piece and began a new project – my own role as a survivor. The things he did, he says he did in the name of love, I say, ya right…when you love someone you respect hem enough to listen when they say no!

Here are a few of the comments Arte Sana has received in response to this exhibit:

As the director of a non profit for survivors I wanted you to know that the art show is deeply touching. Congratulations to the survivor artists who have touched my heart. -- Joyce, Gift From Within

“Beautiful! Powerful!  Really gives a strong message about the experience of survivors. ¡Lindo Trabajo!” Austin, Texas
 “This is a very moving and important exhibit.  Thank you so much for doing
 it.” Oakland, California
 “Thank you – God bless!” Bloomfield, Connecticut
 “¡Excelente trabajo! Un abrazo solidario!” Puerto Rico
 “Touched my heart deeply, hope to visit again.”  Sweetwater, Texas
 “Thank you, wonderful exhibit!” Austin, Texas
 “Your work is important and necessary.” Boston, Massachusetts
"I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for sponsoring the "Corazon Lastimado" art exhibit. I am a therapist in private practice and had several of my
sex offender treatment groups attend your exhibit. The positive impact it had on some of the offenders was incredible. Most of them were able to identify some of the emotions expressed in the pieces as characteristic of their own victims and imagine that their victims might feel and experience what the artists conveyed in their pieces. Some of them (who are at an earlier level of progress in their treatment) were impacted by the words and images, not really believing the impact sexual abuse has on some victims when we "teach" them about trauma. Overall they were impressed by the openness of the artists in "showing their hearts" and the creativity presented in the pieces. "
Diana Garza Louis, LPC, LMFT, RSOTP
Rio Grande Counseling Center
Austin, Texas

View the Corazón Lastimado: Healing the Wounded Heart™ Survivor Art exhibit

This project was funded in part by the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission.

Información en espanol
Matted prints of any heart from this year's exhibit are available. Click here to learn more.
Send us your comments regarding the exhibit.
Read the press release.

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