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Art exhibit creates conversation around sexual assault

Sexual violence is something that is hard to talk about. The Blue Bench hopes that their RISE art show gets the conversation going.

WESTMINSTER, Colo — Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. And it is not something people want to talk about. 

"Nobody wants to talk about sexual violence," said Megan Carvajal, the executive director of The Blue Bench, a sex assault survivor center. "We have the opportunity to change that conversation--that makes it easier for survivors to seek support, it makes it easier for them to report."

Carvajal, who is a sex assault survivor herself, is also an artist. She has experienced firsthand how art can help heal and also create conversation. 

"I saw that this was a way to give people healing that I had experienced as well," Carvajal said. 

So she came up with the idea of an art show, featuring works by sexual assault survivors. It is called the RISE art show, and looks at the journey each survivor has taken, through sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, and the written word. 

It is not only for the artists themselves.

"It's also a way for people who aren’t artists [to] see that other people can move beyond their assault and find their own way to do that, and that creates a community," Carvajal said. "We’re not going to end sexual violence unless it becomes a community issue."

Jenn Merz is a local artist who has works in RISE. She has said that art has always been a way for her to work through some of the trauma she experienced as a sexual assault survivor. Her stepfather abused her from age eight to nearly 18. 

"My hope is to inspire others and to encourage them to speak up or get help or whatever you need to just heal on your own," Merz said. 

She hopes other survivors can look at her work and reclaim their own voice.

"As terrifying as that is, it’s really empowering," Merz said.

The RISE show will be open to the public April 2-23, 2023, at The Lab on Santa Fe.


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