gives abuse victims back their voice
By Jen Beasley
April 18, 2006 | Chris Lord had lost
her edge. After years of emotional abuse by her husband,
she had stopped playing the flute.
She was divorced. She had low self-esteem.
She was on medication. But an experimental music therapy
program through the Community Abuse Prevention Services
Agency helped turn all that around.
"Finding Voice" began in 2002
as an experimental program to help victims of domestic
violence heal through use of music, poetry and other
artistic expression. Initially, it was simply intended
to help women heal by reconnecting them to their creative
instincts. But as participants regained their confidence
and their own voices, the project took on its own life.
For these women, truly reclaiming
their voices meant sounding off in public.
"When we first started doing
the music therapy, putting on a stage performance wasn't
even part of the objective," said Lord, 54. "At first
we were just going to do it for friends and family.
But as it went along, we began to want to share our
The women wrote songs and poetry
about their diverse experiences with domestic abuse,
performing them at nine venues throughout Utah.
There were nine people in the audience
for their first performance, held at the Community Abuse
Prevention Services Agency (CAPSA) in Logan. The most
recent performance at Utah State University drew 300
And their message continues to spread.
Through a private donation, the women were able to record
their ethnographic piece on 1,000 CDs, which are distributed
through CAPSA to spread awareness of the scourge of
Maureen Hearns, the director of the
"Finding Voice" project, was surprised at the women's
eagerness to tell their stories in public. She and project
founder Elizabeth York had intended simply to use the
confidential therapy as part of their research. But
the women artists wanted their voices heard.
"They wanted to go public,"
Hearns said. "They wanted to be on stage. They wanted
to make the final recording, the CD. We were very much
surprised by their willingness to enter into that process.
"The fact that these women
would be willing to put their names and faces and voices
on the CD, it was almost unimaginable," she said. "That's
an amazing level of courage, and we continue to honor
Lord says she's still a little surprised
at her own willingness to go public with her story.
She had participated in more traditional CAPSA support
groups, but the addition of the music gave her an extra
"In the music program you were
more inclined to show up because it built on itself,"
Lord said. "There was more motivation to attend. We
built instruments, we learned songs. When we started
practicing, it was like, 'Oh! I can't miss because I
have to do my part.'"
Lord, who plays the flute on the
"Finding Voice" CD, said the music helped her with the
healing process. Though she had participated in band
and orchestra when she was younger, Lord said her abuser
was unsupportive of her music, and she had fallen away
from it for years.
"Perpetrators don't like you
doing those things," Lord said. "They want to exclude
you from those things."
Lord said the "Finding Voice" project
helped her to reclaim what she had lost.
"It helped me gain my self-esteem
back," she said. "It helped me deal with the whole abusive
situation surrounding my divorce. It helped me overcome
a lot of fears."
As she gained confidence through
the rediscovery of her musical side, Lord also was able
to get off her anxiety medication.
"It was really kind of liberating
for me," she said. "At first I couldn't even perform,
I had so many anxieties. Eventually, I was able to go
perform in public without medication. So that was kind
of the epitome of therapy for me."
Now, through additional funding for
the research from the American Association of University
Women, Hearns is directing "Finding Voice 2," an offshoot
of the original program that is integrating music therapy
into the support groups not only for the women, but
for their children as well.
Although it's too soon to speculate
about how the second project will turn out when the
data collection concludes in June, Hearns says music
therapy has been shown to be an effective tool in enhancing
bonds between parents and children.
The second part of the project also
has sessions for Latino women, with the focus being
on more Latin rhythms in the music.
"We did want to take it to
Hispanic women," said Hearns. "People make psychological
connections with the music faster when it's music that
is preferred by them or music that is culturally specific."
In the meantime, Hearns and Lord
are both hopeful that the message from the original
"Finding Voice" production will continue to spread.
"We'd like to see the play
itself come to a point where it would be performed by
professionals as well, much like 'The Laramie Project,'"
Hearns said. "Overall, the story, it's pretty intense.
It's the lived experience of the participants."
She says "Finding Voice" is a message
of hope for victims of domestic abuse that is spreading
to other agencies and support groups, which is just
what the women in the project wanted.
"They wanted to be able to
say, 'This is enough. This is going to stop, and it's
going to stop with me,'" Hearns said. "It takes a lot
of courage to be able to stand up and say that. And
now we're seeing that other women that come into shelters
and hear this are saying, 'If they can do it, so can
CDs of the "Finding Voice" production
are available through CAPSA at 435-753-2500.