10 - “If I can make a circle”  pp. 307-315

“If I can make a circle”

By Brooke A. Ackerly

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Far away from Rwanda, a young art teacher drives from the Berkshires of Massachusetts to the ocean of Venice, California, staying in battered women's shelters for a few days to a week at each shelter. In each shelter she does art with the residents. She teaches them art techniques, simple ways of using various media. Each uses the opportunity to create something beautiful. Sometimes the teacher paints portraits of the survivors of domestic violence. Sometimes she records their words. Their words become part of the portraits.

The cover of this book is such a portrait. The words inspired the founder of what became A Window Between Worlds, an organization that develops art curricula for shelters of survivors of domestic violence and that fosters survivors' circles, which bring women together to do art. The title of this chapter (and of the cover art) come from three women's reflections on surviving, power, building trust, fostering community, and listening. The text that appears in italics is text from their reflections and is incorporated into the portrait.


(Acrylic on Paper 32″ × 37″)

The relationship that I've been in with myself is a type of freedom that I never believed that I could feel: I can express that it's not okay to be beat, it's not okay to molest children, it's not okay to hurt another person. I feel happy and sad. I feel sad because there's still women and children out there getting beat and hurt and perpetrated. But I feel happy that I can tell the world that it's not okay.[…]