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FACING MECCA FROM LOGAN: Muslims gather for Friday prayers in a new Pixel photoessay. / Photo by Sarah Ali

Today's word on journalism

Friday, May 12, 2006


PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Music 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 stories."

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 people.

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 domestic violence.

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 that."

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 incentive.

"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 I.'"

CDs of the "Finding Voice" production are available through CAPSA at 435-753-2500.



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