One of the aspect of blogging I really enjoy is finding books that are out of the ordinary, even though I don’t necessarily have time to read them all. I think To The Survivors by Robert Uttaro is probably one such book, sharing as it does the experiences of those who’ve suffered sexual assault. I asked Robert what he thought about the arts as a means to help people heal after traumatic experiences and he shares his thoughts with us below.
To The Survivors is available for purchase through the links here.
To The Survivors
To The Survivors is about one man’s journey as a rape crisis counselor with true stories of sexual violence shared by survivors in their own words. Gently and beautifully constructed, To The Survivors is moving,tender, sharp, and piercingly true all at once.
Readers will encounter uncensored written stories, poems, and interviews from women and men who have experienced rape and sexual assault, plus the advocate-author voice that weaves their experiences together.
The survivors are diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity, yet each gives a similarity raw and heartfelt account of his or her victimisation and recovery. The authenticity and vulnerability with which survivors speak resonates profoundly. But this book is not just for survivors of sexual violence. Robert Uttaro believes anyone can benefit from the words in these pages, rape survivor or not.
The Healing Power of the Arts
A Guest Post by Robert Uttaro
Art is one of the most powerful gifts we can give and receive. Art moves our hearts and souls. It can inspire. It can teach. It can provide peace and comfort. It can make us question…It can help us to heal. It connects people from diverse and similar backgrounds. Art accomplishes so many things at various points throughout life that I cannot capture all of its beauty and purpose. I believe art helps us to communicate with God.
Every person can connect with some form of art. For me, music is the form of art that I connect with the most. I have had a deep love of music and musicians since I was a little kid. I listen to music throughout the day and night, especially when I write, cook, exercise, and even when I pray. If it weren’t for music, my book To the Survivors would have never been completed.
To The Survivors is about my journey as a rape crisis counselor with true stories of men, women, and one transgendered man who have been raped and sexually assaulted. Readers will encounter uncensored written stories, poems, and interviews from survivors in their own words. The survivors are diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity, yet each gives a similarity raw and heartfelt account of his or her victimization and recovery. The authenticity and vulnerability with which survivors speak resonates deeply. But this book is not just for survivors of sexual violence. I believe anyone can benefit from the words in these pages, rape survivor or not.
There are different paths of healing and different forms of expression. Some people would rather speak to share their truths and pain, while others prefer to write fiction or non-fiction. Some prefer to speak. For some, poetry is a profound way to express what may be difficult to express through the spoken word. Jenee is one woman in To the Survivors who shared her poetry and story with me. Her poems “March Fourteenth” and “March Twenty-Eighth” were so powerful to me that I knew I had to begin and end the book with them. I believe Jenee’s poetry allowed her to truly express her thoughts and prayers after such evil.
There is power in our words. One of the insightful aspects of To the Survivors is seeing people open up and speak about horrific crimes for both themselves and for the benefit of others. People can grow and heal; they do not have to be silenced and suffer with shame throughout their lives. I want to share two examples of this. Don is one man who was raped when he was a child. I had never met Don or known his story, but he agreed to come to my apartment and talk with me. He had never shared his story in full to anybody before that morning. His healing process continued to grow after our talk, and over time he began to talk more comfortably about the abuse he endured. Don later began sharing his story to high school and college students.
Jenee is another example of the benefit of sharing in To the Survivors. Jenee, like Don, had never shared her story with anyone. She was willing to share but did not want to use her real name in the book. After re-reading much of the book, it was Shira’s chapter in To the Survivors who inspired Jenee to use her real name. Jenee also began to speak to high school and college students throughout her healing process.
It is not for me to tell people how to live or act, but I do believe in the power of the arts and the power of God. Art is one of the tools we possess to overcome evil on this earth. Anyone out there who is reading this and may be struggling emotionally with anything at all, tap into a form of art you connect with and express yourself any way you choose to. As I write in the B.L.E.S.S. chapter in To the Survivors, “Always remember to take care of yourself no matter what, and never stop doing the things you love that bring peace and joy to your life. Whether it is music, art, exercise, cooking, reading, sports, prayer, nature, or any of the other amazing gifts life has to offer: Embrace them. Do what you love to do, embrace all the beauty that exists within yourself and the world around you, and take care of yourself.”
About Robert Uttaro
Robert Uttaro is in his eighth year of working and volunteering as a rape crisis counselor, public speaker and community educator. Inspired by his undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice, he continues to embrace a life-long commitment to activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. Serving as a counselor, Uttaro supports rape survivors and their significant others through various legal and case management issues. He also facilitates workshops aimed at education, prevention and exposure of the realities of sexual violence. Uttaro is currently touring many universities and high schools throughout Massachusetts.