Primary Sources: A Creative Approach to Helping Survivors of Interpersonal Violence Heal

A woman taking a photograph.

"Through the Eyes of a Survivor: A Pilot Study to Examine the Use of a Photovoice-based Support Group for Women Survivors of Family-Based Interpersonal Violence" (PDF, 94.4KB). Laura Beth Haymore, Mary Y. Morgan, Christine E. Murray, Robert W. Strack, Linda Trivette and Paige Hall Smith. Family Violence Prevention and Health Practice, Vol. 1, No. 12 (2012).

What it’s about: The photovoice method of therapy -- using photography and journaling to depict experiences and facilitate social support -- has been shown to help prevent domestic violence among women who might be at risk. Researchers wanted to test whether this creative approach to therapy could also benefit survivors of family violence, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Equipped with a digital camera, a journal and their past experiences, five women spent 10 weeks taking photos and writing accompanying narratives as part of the “Through the Eyes of a Survivor” program.

Why read it: Survivors of family and relationship violence may each need different ways to process their experiences and begin to heal. Photovoice may provide a low-cost, creative mode of expression that could easily be added to an existing support group for survivors.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: The researchers found that photovoice therapy allowed participants to express their stories of past victimization in ways they might not have been able to do in talk therapy alone. Photovoice also increased social support.

By taking photos and journaling, participants were able to highlight moments significant to their relationships. One participant used a picture of a door to explain that no one knows what happens behind closed doors. Another took a picture of a blank wall in her home to depict the violence that happened there.

After the 10-week program was over, participants said they would have liked more time to take more pictures. They were also very interested in the support aspect of the program and suggested in the future that they share their pictures before meetings so they could be better prepared to have a meaningful discussion.

Additional references: You can read the full text of the article and see photos from the study on the Futures Without Violence website. NCFY has also written about the use of the photovoice process in youth engagement and community advocacy.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB, or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.) 

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