Healing is Not Linear: Using Photography to Describe the Day-to-Day Healing Journeys of Undergraduate Women Survivors of Sexual Violence

Abstract [from journal]

The purpose of this study was to describe the day-to-day healing processes of women who experienced undergraduate sexual violence. We engaged 19 women in a photo-elicitation experience with follow-up individual interviews to identify themes of both healing and darker moments in survivors' everyday lives. Healing was found to function on a continuum influenced by darker moments (i.e., moments that elicited fear, anxiety, loneliness, guilt, anger, and worthlessness) and healing moments (i.e., rebuilding moments of self-care, self-love, connection, hope, peace, and freedom). Responses to darker moments included feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and intentional vulnerability. Healing moments were influenced by self-reflection, authentic interactions, and resource utilization. The photographs taken in this study shed light on the impact of sexual violence in women's daily lives long after these traumatic and unjust experiences. This knowledge can be used to foster a sense of universality in survivors who are currently struggling and growing after their experiences as well as give service providers greater insight into what survivors' day-to-day needs may be.