Voices & Faces: MARCH. 2012 | The Story Behind the Story

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The story behind the story: Our testimonial writing workshop and its first book.

In 2011, with support from Verizon Wireless and a handful of individual donors, The Voices and Faces Project launched "The Stories We Tell," the country's first testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking. Created by award-winning fiction writer R. Clifton Spargo, our workshop brought together a diverse community of writers, each seeking to speak out about sexual violence. Over the course of our two-day program, workshop participants engaged in an innovative series of writing exercises. During one such exercise, participants were asked to write about sexual violence from the perspective of someone of a different sexual orientation or gender. At that time, workshop participant Christa Desir conceived the idea for a YA (young adult) novel, written from the perspective of a male high school student whose girlfriend is raped at a party - a scenario that those of us working on sexual violence issues have encountered all-too-often.

When Christa read her piece out loud during the workshop, we knew that she had written something special. What we did not know was exactly how special: with the support of our Voices and Faces Project workshop team, Christa expanded that initial writing exercise into a novel, which will be published by Simon Pulse (a division of Simon and Schuster) in 2013. "TRAINWRECK," a compassionate and candid exploration of the gang rape of a high school student, will reach young adults "where they are" with a message that they very much need to hear.

The Voices and Faces Project writing workshop went beyond anything I expected it could be. I learned so much about myself as a writer, and interacted with other survivors in a way I hadn’t done before. Through the exercises and the amazing workshop reading package, I was able to find my voice and tell a story I didn't think I ever could. — Christa Desir
Books like Christa's have the potential to do more than engage. They have the power to create change. In a world in which the media too often celebrates violence against women and girls, we believe that TRAINWRECK will provide a very different perspective – one that will challenge young readers to think differently, and more compassionately, about the issue of sexual violence.

To bring our testimonial writing workshop to your community, email us.

The Voices and Faces Project, recently named one of "America's Best Charities" by the board of directors of Independent Charities of America, has been recognized by the United States Department of Justice as part of the "new generation" of anti-violence leaders. We're working to change minds, hearts and social policy by helping survivors to tell their stories and by introducing those stories into the public square. We need your support to continue our work.

Testimony and social justice: A panel discussion at Northwestern University.
One March 5th, Northwestern University scholar Danny M. Cohen, researcher and professor Elliot Leftkowitz (who has interviewed survivors of the Holocaust for The Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Project ), and Voices and Faces Project founder Anne Ream were featured panelists in a discussion about the power and purpose of survivor testimony. Speaking at the invitation of the Center for Forced Migration Studies at the Buffett Center at Northwestern University, Cohen, Leftkowitz and Ream talked about the process of interviewing survivors, the ethical challenges that must be confronted when doing so, and the most effective ways to bring survivor stories to the attention of the public. To find out more about bringing a Voices and Faces Project speaker or event to your community, email us.

Words = Change: CAASE, The Voices and Faces Project and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance join forces.
Created through a partnership between The Voices and Faces Project and the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, this public workshop will introduce issues of sexual exploitation and trafficking in the Chicagoland area, and explore ways that those who have lived through or witnessed such violence can write to create change. The forum and workshop are being hosted by the Neighborhood Writing Alliance with support from Chicago Publishes. See you there!
WHEN: Thursday, April 12; 6-8 pm
WHERE: Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Room (5th floor)

Thank you, Crown Family Philanthropies.
The Voices and Faces Project is pleased to announce the support of Crown Family Philanthropies, which seeks to recognize organizations developing results-oriented solutions to social problems. "The Crown Family’s investment in our work means a great deal to us, particularly in this challenging economic environment," notes Aimee Bravo-Noffsinger of The Voices and Faces Project. "Our project exists at the intersection of art, activism and social justice - an exciting place to be, but one that is not always easily understood by funders. Aparna Sharma and the Crown family took great care in learning about our testimonial work, and exploring how it can shape public attitudes about violence against women, and lead to survivor healing. Their generosity reminds us that there are funders who support and appreciate 'non-traditional' ways of addressing social justice issues.”

Extraordinary Women, Admirable Deeds: The Voices and Faces Project is recognized by Today’s Chicago Woman.
Today’s Chicago Woman recently recognized six “extraordinary women” for their contributions to the Chicago community, and the work of the organizations with which they are affiliated. Congratulations to Voices and Faces Project Founder Anne Ream for being one of these women and thank you, TCW, for recognizing the work of our non-profit organization. Read the article

Give the gift of music, and support The Voices and Faces Project.
Our second Voices and Faces Project benefit cd, The Angel Band Project, is on sale now. This moving collection of songs -- including tunes by two of our personal favorites, Bob Dylan and Patty Griffin -- honors the life of Teresa Butz, a victim of rape and murder, and has been a labor of love for Teresa's Tony and Grammy Award-winning brother Norbert Butz Junior. 100% of proceeds from The Angel Band Project benefit our Voices and Faces Project work to end sexual violence. Visit the Angel Band Project blog.

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