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The Shelter for Abused Women & Children – “Survivors heal through art therapy”

The Shelter for Abused Women & Children – “Survivors heal through art therapy”

by Kaydee Tuff, Communications Manager, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children

Nine-year-old Nikko could not talk about the daily abuse he saw his father inflict on his mother but he could create amazing works with clay. Watching him, one might see a child at play, but Nikko’s clay creations are much more than play – they are healing therapy.

Although personal safety is the first and foremost concern for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, vital to the healing process is recovery from the repeated trauma, posttraumatic stress, personal shame and loss of self.

Speaking the truth about the abuse in one’s life is a step toward healing, but not all survivors are ready to talk about what has happened to them. For some, it is literally “unspeakable.” Art therapy provides these survivors with a variety of alternatives to free themselves of this pain and move toward recovery.

Through a grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children’s Healing Arts program provides yoga, breath work, creative writing, art therapy, meditation, drumming circles and other clinically proven methods to allow survivors to heal from the past, live fully in the present and plan for a life free from violence.

Art therapy does not come easily to those who have been controlled, betrayed, punished, and have learned self-hatred. The waters of creativity and imagination must be stirred to restore a sense of possibility, identity, and reconnection with the parts of ones’ self that were silenced in order to survive. While survivors often feel shame in talking about abuse, they find that talking about their artwork is an experience of finally coming home.

“I am grateful that you let me release emotion when all I’ve ever done my whole life is keep my emotions held inside,” a participant shared in a thank you note to her advocate. “Please know that the work you do is making a huge positive impact.”

That sentiment was shared by Angie, who found healing in the form of a paint brush. Her final piece, “How I feel today,” featured a large sun shining just beyond some mountains. The sunlight took up most of the canvas. She shared that she could almost grasp the end of this chapter in her life as she looked forward to the beginning of a new one.

In addition to the fine arts, yoga and meditation also provide healing and release.

“Yoga helps me focus on the here and now, and be grateful for all things,” says one participant. “It helps to open you up emotionally to express what’s happening in your body and to release it.  You need to work through the process.  You need to be disciplined and push yourself a little bit more each time.  It provides a mindset for your general health and to move forward.”

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence or human trafficking, call The Shelter’s crisis hotline at 239.775.1101. For more information on The Shelter, go to


This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2019 competitive grant cycle.  Funds made available for these grants are graciously given by donors through Field of Interest Funds. Many of these donors are deceased and have left instructions to the Foundation on the causes they care about and then rely on the Foundation team to address the communities’ greatest needs within the established criteria by the donor.  We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.



The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit






Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Our ambition is a more vibrant community that will continually address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties in Southwest Florida. We invite you to join our family and invest in the community with us!