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Healing Through the Arts

By Dana, a Hotline Advocate

Here at The Hotline, we know the importance of a self-care  routine as a means for coping with stress and dealing with the complicated emotional and physical responses that can arise from the trauma of abuse. An on-going commitment to self-care and personal wellness is an important part of recovery and healing, and many survivors face unique challenges in being able to create a self-care routine that works well for them.

We do know that survivors of abuse can experience long-terms changes to their mental and emotional health, even after leaving an abusive relationship. These changes may include anxiety, isolation/avoidance, and/or irritability; flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and/or nightmares; and guilt/shame, depression, and/or negative self-image. People who are dealing with symptoms like this are sometimes diagnosed with  post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, it can be helpful to know that traumatic events affect people in all kinds of ways and there is nothing wrong with you if you find yourself struggling to heal from the impact of past abuse.

Recent  research  shows that traumatic memories are stored in the right back region of the brain, which is associated with non-verbal memories (sights, sounds, and smells associated with a past event), rather than the left front area of the brain, which is associated with verbal memories. This means that commonly recommended self-care activities like journaling, talking to a friend, or even traditional talk therapy might not be the most effective strategies for working through those memories and the emotional and physical reactions attached to them.

So, what is someone to do in that case? What could help where other strategies fail?

Art expression (in all its forms) activates the right brain because it incorporates your senses by providing tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and/or visual information. This means that  arts activities can tap into traumatic memories  the way that other, less sensory activities cannot. There is  evidence  that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer or as an initiator, can enhance your mood, emotions, and other psychological states, while reducing symptoms like stress and depression.

One possible way to benefit from the healing power of the arts is by participating in  creative arts or expressive arts therapy . This can include art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry, play, or sand tray therapy. Being able to create a visual representation of intense emotions or move your body in creative ways can help you express parts of the experience that may be difficult to put into words.

Creating art can also help you access a  flow  state where you are unaware of the passage of time and the outside world fades away; this state has been described as “being in the zone.” Spending time in this flow state can be beneficial as it is known to reduce the negative effects of repetitive or intrusive thoughts and it allows unconscious associations to emerge, which can help you make meaning out of your experiences.

While many survivors do find formal therapy to be very beneficial as they work towards healing from trauma, it is not necessary to participate in formal arts therapy to reap the benefits of creativity. Any repetitive action (sewing, gardening, yoga, drawing, etc.)  releases dopamine , a chemical in our brains that is related to the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Engaging in creative pursuits regularly can help train your brain to produce more of these feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood over time. Creative activities are helpful because they tend to culminate in a positive result – whether it’s something tangible like a painting, or the sense of pride that comes from finally mastering a new dance step. Participating in activities that allow you to see that you’re making progress can be especially healing when you’ve endured something that made you feel helpless in the past. The experience of making concrete progress can increase your self-esteem and reinforce healthy habits, helping you feel motivated to continue doing things that improve your mood and help you work through the trauma you’ve endured.

One of the most powerful things about using the arts to heal is that it can help you begin to tap back into your sense of self and purpose. If addressing larger life goals feels too overwhelming, meeting a creative goal can help you re-engage with your productivity in a way that’s enjoyable and will foster positive brain connections. Engaging in creative activities is a way to reclaim your autonomy and do something purely for yourself and for the enjoyment it brings.

Additionally, being creative can help you strengthen social connections. You might consider taking an arts class in your community and use the class as a chance to meet new people and create a support system. This also could be an opportunity to get positive feedback from the other group members, which can be a stepping stone to overcoming feelings of self-doubt or shame about your creativity. Many creative arts or expressive arts therapists also offer group therapy, which can provide a safer space to connect with others who can more deeply understand those feelings of grief, anger, and helplessness, and can support the journey towards healing.

Research on post-traumatic stress highlights a benefit of healing from trauma, which has been named post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth refers to the resiliency that emerges after experiencing intense stress, including stronger interpersonal relationships, identification of new possibilities, increased personal strength, enhanced spirituality, and greater life appreciation.  Scientific American   quotes research by Marie Forgeard which found that while unwanted, intrusive rumination about traumatic events leads to a decline in all five areas of growth, controlled and deliberate rumination leads to an  increase  in every area associated with post-traumatic growth. Creative expression is one way to harness the power of this deliberate rumination, contributing to future growth and healing.

In summary, creative expression can be one way for survivors to take back control of their life’s narrative, tap back into their strengths and skill sets, and create meaning from their life experiences. In this way, creativity can be as empowering as it is enjoyable, and can help survivors foster a new future filled with endless possibilities. If you are a survivor of intimate partner violence who is struggling to heal from past abuse, or if you need help creating a self-care plan that works for you, we are here to support you. Advocates are available 24/7 via phone (1-800-799-7233) and online chat.

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How can DV programs use the arts to promote healing and inspire action for social change?

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by Breckan Erdman, NRCDV Program Specialist

When I was in college, I co-facilitated a weekly creative writing workshop at a local domestic violence shelter. “Writing workshop” was a loose term for our group, which gathered informally each week with residents who were available and interested to read and write poetry, play word games, talk about art, and listen to music. No one was required to attend; residents came because they wanted to. In a domestic violence program where the rest of the day was often highly structured and centered around managing crises, our weekly gatherings created a space for flexibility, creativity, and self-care.

Although some folks in the group knew themselves to be great poets and artists, many of us did not. Our gatherings were more about taking time to connect and create than about writing a perfect poem or short story. We often abandoned our set agendas to make space for storytelling. As we worked together to find meaning in poetry and shared our vulnerabilities when reading our own writings aloud, we built community.

Even if we don’t consider ourselves to be particularly “artistic,” most of us like to create in one way or another, whether this means writing poetry, performing in an improv group, gardening, or cooking food that brings us comfort. Because using the arts for self-expression can be incredibly empowering and can promote healing for survivors, making space to create and play can serve an important role in domestic violence organizations.

Art for Healing

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keefe

Different creative outlets, from music therapy to body art are known to promote healing for survivors of trauma. This can take a more structured form, such as art therapy, which is when a licensed mental health professional works with clients to “use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem” ( American Art Therapy Association ). Because it has the flexibility to “be molded and designed around each and every individual patient and issue, addressing not only the physical and mental aspects, but reaching deeper into the emotional and spiritual,” art therapy is particularly helpful for survivors of trauma. Researcher Sarah Riley writes that art therapy can be “an effective tool for expression, personal growth, and recovery from traumatic events and emotional weight” ( Positive Effects of Art Therapy for Women and Children from Backgrounds of Domestic Violence ).

art therapy activities domestic violence

“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence. It forms the quality of light from which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” – Audre Lorde

And because it can help us to process feelings, express ourselves, and heal, creating art can be an empowering tool for self-care for advocates as we work to mitigate the effects of exposure to vicarious trauma and promote resilience in our work and personal lives. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be particularly artistic, doodling, journaling about your feelings, or simply manipulating a piece of clay with your hands can help you to soothe and center yourself. Or if you prefer more structure, you could engage in art therapy activities , such as assembling a motivational collage or creating a mind map, to help you process emotions, relax, and examine your sense of self.

Keep in mind that, although it’s wonderful to be able to create a breathtaking painting or to write a song that resonates with people, this is more about the process than the final product. The most important thing is to make space for self-expression, reflection and healing. Some ideas for incorporating the arts into domestic violence programs include:

  • Add paint, clay, and other art supplies to your organization’s donation needs list. Keep these supplies in a place that is accessible for people to use when they feel inspired.
  • Is there a blank wall in your building? Invite advocates and survivors in your organization to work together to create a mural.
  • Offer incoming survivors a notebook and pen. This was a critical component of our weekly writing workshops – we tried to always have extra notebooks and pens available to give away, so that anyone interested in writing on their own time throughout the week had the supplies they needed.
  • Gardening can be a great way to get in touch with nature and to create something beautiful at the same time, and has been shown to promote psychological and social well-being . Work with survivors in your program to start a garden or reach out to a local community garden.
  • Reach out to your local community theatre or dance studio about opportunities to collaborate.
  • If possible, connect with an art therapist in your area so you know who you can refer survivors to for art therapy.
  • Ask the survivors and advocates in your organization what they like to do to express themselves creatively and try to find a way to build programming that is responsive to their artistic interests!

“I feel the gardening program has made my children become more gentle with plants and flowers, also they have learned all things grow with care and love.” – Survivor, Project GROW

For more information on the connections between, art, culture, and healing, as well as resources for service providers and a gallery of survivor artwork , visit Arte Sana’s website . Arte Sana is a national Latina-led nonprofit committed to ending sexual violence and other forms of gender-based aggressions and engage marginalized communities as agents of change through bilingual professional training, community education, and the arts.

Art for Social Change

“Political art is critical because it sparks critical reflection and consciousness for mass groups of peoples. It helps us manifest our power and our vision into something real.” – INCITE!

art therapy activities domestic violence

So how can your program use the arts to inspire social change? The Domestic Violence Awareness Project offers ideas for traditional Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaign events that incorporate visual arts, such as purple ribbon campaigns, silent witness displays and brides marches. You could also consider engaging with your community through a story circle , working with youth in your community to design educational posters, or even staging a local production of the Vagina Monologues to raise awareness about gender-based violence. These are just a starting point – the possibilities are truly endless!

For more information:

  • Transformative Storytelling for Social Change
  • DO YOU: Building Youth Resilience Through Creative Expression
  • How can I incorporate experiential or alternative activities into summer programming with domestic violence survivors? by Patty Branco, NRCDV
  • Art for Action by the Northwest Network
  • Using Story Circles to Capture Local Community Responses to Gender-Based Violence by NRCDV

My Soul Has Survived (Andrea Wellnetz, Arte Sana)

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6 Art Therapy Ideas For Kids In Verbally Abusive Homes

Art therapy is a productive way for kids to work through the complicated feelings while living in an abusive home and these projects could help.

It's important that children grow up feeling safe and able to freely express themselves. As parents, we try our best to cultivate an environment that allows them to do just that. However, sometimes we find ourselves in less-than-desirable situations. Perhaps despite your best efforts your home has become volatile - filled with screaming matches or shared with a verbally abusive partner - or your child may have come from an environment like this in the past if you've adopted them into your family. In situations where your child feels silenced , art therapy may be something for you to explore with them.

Children are able to suffer from anxiety just like adults, but treatment may look a bit different. While adults often find comfort in talking about their anxiety and searching for solutions, children lack this ability to fully understand and express what has happened to them . Additionally, participating in a Q&A-style therapy session can be stressful for children and cause more harm than good. According to The Palmeira Practice , art therapy allows children to "communicate their story without the verbal ‘telling’, which can feel safer."

We've gathered 6 art therapy ideas to help your child find their voice.

Disclaimer: This article and the activities provided within are not intended as a substitute for seeking help. If you or your child are unsafe at home, please seek out local resources to get yourself out of the dangerous situation.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline   is a great starting resource and provides free assistance in getting you to a safe location. Visit their website or call 1.800.799.7233 for more information.

6 Create Mandalas

Mandalas are compilations of geometric shapes. They can be as complex or as simple as you like, and the repetitive shapes and patterns incorporated into mandalas are great for helping children regulate their emotions. After drawing their mandala, your child can then color it in however they like. Choosing their own design and colors gives them a sense of freedom and choice they may be lacking at home, and the colors they select can be telling of their mood. For a child-friendly tutorial on drawing mandalas, check out The Crafty Classroom .

5 Make A Collage

Collages can be a wonderful artistic outlet for kids for many reasons. The many tactile sensations involved allow children to find comfort in letting go of their worries, focusing instead on the multitude of textures available to them - soft, smooth, scratchy, rigid. Creating a collage also provides children with a sense of control as they are able to select images of their choosing intended for their happiness. Finally, the act of piecing things together in new and unusual ways can help organize and calm an anxious mind.

4 Keep An Art Journal

While more of an ongoing project rather than a singular art therapy session, art journaling is a way for your child to chronicle their emotions. Some children may be too young for regular journaling or have difficulty expressing their true feelings through writing. Art journaling allows for a simpler, more direct approach at putting emotion to paper . It can be therapeutic for your child to have a consistent outlet for expressing themselves, and the journal provides a sense of privacy as well as ownership and control of their emotions.

RELATED: Introducing Kids To Journaling Can Have Huge Benefits

3 Create A Family Painting Or Sculpture

According to The Institute of Projective Drawings , how your child draws, paints, or sculpts a family portrait can reveal a lot about how they experience their family, such as how their parents and siblings affect them, what they are missing, and what they most need. Encourage your child to draw a picture of your family, and then ask them to draw a family that they imagine. Give your child a safe space to discuss the differences in the drawings.

2 Draw Your Heart

It's challenging when you can tell your child is upset but they are unable to express why. This art therapy activity is intended to help your child express emotions they are feeling in the moment. Simply ask them to sit down and draw their heart. The act of drawing their heart will allow them to calm and organize their thoughts, and coloring the heart encourages them to visually express their emotions. You'll get a better understanding of what is going on inside of them, and they'll feel relieved to have found a way to let it out.

1 Make A Postcard

Making a postcard can be helpful for children who have something to say but may not feel comfortable expressing it face-to-face. Depending on the child's age and level of comfort with the exercise, the postcard can be entirely illustrated, or they can include some writing. Whatever approach they choose, the intention is to answer the question: "What would I say to someone if I didn't have to do it face-to-face?"

This activity is useful for children experiencing conflict or hurt with a particular person or situation. Perhaps you've recently gone through a divorce, they've fought with a sibling or friend, or someone has hurt their feelings and they are struggling to express it. Whoever the source of hurt may be, ask your child to make a postcard. Before they begin, ask them to think about the person or situation they feel frustrated with. Then, have them draw a visual representation of how that situation makes them feel on one side of the postcard. On the other side, have them write what they would say to that person if they could.

READ NEXT: How One Family Supported Their Teen Through Depression

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Letting the Art Do the Healing

Workshops help survivors get their trauma out through creativity.

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  • Dec 23, 2016

Letting the Art Do the Healing

Artist and survivor Cathy Salser always knew she wanted to use her art to make a difference. So, for the last two-and-a-half decades, she’s been running the nonprofit organization A Window Between Worlds to help survivors of trauma heal through creating art. Located in California, they offer workshops in domestic violence shelters throughout 28 states. We asked Salser to share her artistic vision for healing.

DomesticShelters: How did you come up with the idea to help domestic violence survivors through making art?

Salser: One summer 25 years ago, a friend asked, ‘What’s your greatest vision?’ I told her I wanted to share art that would make a difference. I grew up with domestic violence and art was a touchstone of safety, a way to grow and connect with people without words.

In college, I learned how to do portraits and all these technical skills, but they looked at my portfolio and said, ‘What do you want to do with this art?’ Back then, the directory of domestic violence shelters was a paper notebook. I sent letters to all these shelters saying I’ll offer anything I can as an artist. I was 24. I really didn’t expect anything, but then I heard from the director of a shelter in Idaho. She said she was an artist and said she knew how much of a difference art could make. She wanted to create a weekend of workshops around my visit. From there, I just started going from shelter to shelter, holding art workshops. We’d do things like paint murals on basement walls—the kind made of handprints, make miniature masks, sculpt, do pastel drawings or portraiture—which was amazing for those who thought they couldn’t draw; they learned how to draw themselves.

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DomesticShelters: How did living with domestic violence as a child impact what you do today?

Salser: Every step of the way has been a process of sharing something that might help someone grow while also growing myself. Growing up, I hadn’t named what my father had done as domestic violence or abuse. It was only after beginning this journey that I sat down with my mother and asked her about it. I remember shaking because of how scared I was, knowing it would upset my dad.

My dad grew up with extreme child abuse. He sat us down when we were in the 4 th grade and he said he wasn’t going to hit us anymore. He stopped that and I’m proud of him for that. But he struggles with his temper. Most of the abuse was and is verbal, and that’s really, really hard.

DomesticShelters: What kind of art do survivors create in your workshops?

Salser: There are 500 workshops in our curriculum. There’s one called Miniature Mask Making where you make one mask for the past, representing what you want to let go of, and one for the future, what you want to go toward.

The Monster in Me is a drawing class where participants are invited to notice whatever ‘monster’ may live within them. For adults and children alike, the workshop can be a precious safe place to give voice to what we have witnessed and experienced around us as well as what we struggle with within ourselves.

In the Funeral of I Can’t, with construction papers and collage materials and the help of a shredder, participants are invited to voice any ‘I Can’ts’ that they feel are holding them back, be witnessed by the group as they shred them and create a funeral for those ‘I Can’ts’ as part of creating a new beginning.

The Personal Needs Flower is something survivors create with torn paper, oil pastels and glue, with each petal representing a different need. The flower becomes a visual reminder to take care of our needs—spiritual, physical, emotional, etc. In the face of violence and trauma, it can be difficult to remember our needs.

Touchstones is where participants are invited to create small glass stones holding their visions and wishes for their future—whether those visions and wishes feel possible or impossible, getting to hear them, create them and carry them through the ups and downs of the journey can be an incredible source of clarity and strength. Often participants, especially children, have used their stones (calling them ‘safe rocks’) to ground them so that they can sleep, or as gifts to their siblings when they have to testify in court, as a touchstone of connection and support for the journey.

DomesticShelters: How does creating art change survivors of domestic violence?

Salser: There was an older woman, a survivor, who had tried therapy, writing, anything anyone had told her to do. But it was when she got her trauma out in clay that she said she was able to sleep for the first time in years. It’s not about being an artist—it’s a journey of finding your strength.

The workshops are particularly welcoming and effective for survivors who say they’re not creative or artistic—which is a lot of us. The workshops are shared as a ‘window of time’ to practice respecting yourself, your needs, your visions your voice. And that means even if you lay your head on the table instead of drawing, that is you, using that window of time and honoring your needs. That means tearing up the paper if that’s what you feel you need to do.

For those who come to it believing they are not creative or artistic, it is incredibly beautiful witnessing and supporting their journey of exploring this window of time, hearing their own voice and feeling it honored and heard by those in the workshop circle. Thanks to the art, we have been witnessed, heard and valued. We are not alone.

A Window Between Worlds invites survivors, groups and other organizations to create their own Touchstones, as described above. For more information, visit  Touchstones: A Creative Journey .

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Gallery Showcases Art from Survivors Who Say “Actually I Can”

October 19, 2019

Every person’s story is unique. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) supports survivors’ right to tell (or not tell) their story on their own terms. This can mean speaking out on a personal level to friends, family, and acquaintances, or connecting to other survivors on social media. Another way to speak out and share you story is through visual arts.

Earlier this year, NNEDV partnered with Thirty-One Gifts to offer survivors an opportunity to share an original piece of artwork incorporating the phrase “Actually I Can” in order to raise awareness about domestic violence and the possibility for healing. The responses were inspiring snapshots of self-discovery and transformation. We are privileged to share this gallery of submissions that shared different perspectives and pathways toward resilience and healing.

Art is a form of personal expression and storytelling and has therapeutic benefits [1] . There are several reasons why creative arts therapies might benefit survivors of domestic violence. For example, nonverbal techniques calm the deep regions in the right side of the brain, where trauma memories are stored [2] . Additionally, studies support the use of art therapy with survivors as a stress-management technique [3] .

Whether someone considers themselves artistic or not, actively seeking out healthy outlets to process traumatic experiences, such as yoga, deep breathing, or writing, is already taking a step toward empowerment after surviving domestic violence. Healing from trauma is an ongoing process, but the fact that someone has experienced trauma does not have to define their entire life from that point forward. Learn more about trauma and healing with our tips and information for survivors and supporters .

Want to share how “Actually I Can” applies to your experience as a survivor? Submit a high-resolution digital copy of your piece incorporating this phrase to thirtyone[at]nnedv[dot]org and it will be added to the gallery.

[1] Uttley L, et al. “ Systematic Review and Economic Modelling of the Clinical Effectiveness and Cost-effectiveness of Art Therapy among People with Non-psychotic Mental Health Disorders .” NIHR Journals Library; 2015 Mar. ( Health Technology Assessment , No. 19.18.)

[2] Dawn McClelland, PhD, and Chris Gilyard, MA, “ Calming Trauma – How Understanding the Brain Can Help ,”

[3] Cathy Malchiodi, “ Creative Art Therapy: Brain-Wise Approaches to Violence ,”, October 16, 2013

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Why REACH Uses Art Therapy to Help Children Affected by Domestic Violence


“We don’t even need words, we go straight to where the memory is stored.”

art therapy activities domestic violence

This is how REACH’s Child and Adolescent Therapist, Catalina, describes the work she does through art therapy with children. The Art Therapy Alliance defines art therapy as “the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs, facilitated by an Art Therapist.  Art therapy uses art media and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self-expression, create coping skills, manage stress, and strengthen sense of self.  Art therapy has provided mental health treatment for clients who have experienced trauma, grief and loss, depression, chronic illness, substance abuse, and more.”

REACH has been providing therapy to children and teens affected by domestic violence for many years now. We have discussed before how therapy can address issues like attachment , and how our therapist can be a resource for parents as well. Since Catalina has joined the REACH team, we have been able to add her specialty in art therapy to the list of services we provide for kids. This is especially helpful because often, children who have experienced trauma (such as being abused or witnessing violence in the home) find it difficult to discuss what happened out loud. This could be because they have limited language capacity, or because of the shame and stigma that surrounds domestic violence in society as a whole. It could be more biological in nature. Catalina explains that the part of their brain that gets activated in a traumatic situation is the brain stem (the primitive part of the brain which houses the ‘fight or flight’ response). The cortex, where decision making happens, can remain under-activated or under-developed.

art therapy activities domestic violence

Over time, building off of things like the story of the raccoon, we can integrate story telling into their therapy. So much of what has happened to these kids in their young lives has been out of their control. Therapy can help them to make decisions and solve problems. “Using art therapy and narrative therapy, they get to tell their story,” says Catalina.  “They get to write the end. They get some control and power over what happens to them.”

This is the first in a series of blog posts to introduce the “Survivor Plate” for this year’s Reach for the Stars Gala. Each year, among the artist-created plates we auction off, are pieces made by survivors themselves. This year’s plate was painted by a young boy in our Child and Adolescent Therapy Program, as part of his art therapy with Catalina. Next month we will introduce you to a very special REACH volunteer who helps make each gala an artistic feat, and then in September we will tell you as much as we safely can about the young artist himself, and his work. Stay tuned for more!

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American Art Therapy Association

Connected While Apart: A Communal Tapestry by Domestic Violence Survivors

August 11, 2020 | By Farah S.A., MAATC, LPC

A version of this article was first published by Between Friends

During the COVID-19 pandemic domestic violence survivors have been experiencing many hardships. Domestic violence cases have increased since the shelter-in-place order took place. Some survivors were unable to leave an unsafe living situation, while others recently left and were trying to maintain their sense of security after experiencing financial abuse prior. Clients were in crisis on multiple levels. Our agency was focusing on safety planning, emotional support, and offering direct services, which involves finding resources for clients basic needs. Additionally, there were new factors to consider for those living with an abusive individual and many new precautions needed to be taken into consideration especially with technology use. For survivors who do have access to a safe environment and are focusing on trauma recovery work, the theme of uncertainty is triggering for many. Providing remote art therapy has served as a tool to help clients in resourcing and regulating themselves.

art therapy activities domestic violence

In June of 2020, I started to recognize that despite the absence of the communal in-person gatherings previously offered by Between Friends survivors have found creative ways to maintain connections.

This project sought to highlight the hope that clients are finding through the creative process of artmaking. I invited clients to create an individual collage that would be joined into a collective tapestry reflecting our community’s connection and healing despite being apart due to COVID-19. The goal was to highlight how resilient survivors are when they engage their creative voices in their process of healing and growth, while also staying connected to one another and supporting other survivors within the community.

Participants joined a remote art workshop session to create these collages alongside one another. I guided their process with inspirational questions such as, “What vision do you have for your healing and growth this year?” and “What have the connections in our group community inspired you to create in your life?” Additionally, participants were invited to set their collages as their screen backgrounds to serve as a reminder of their creativity, hopes, dreams, and communal togetherness. Participants submitted their collages to be connected into this tapestry to serve as a tangible testament to the fact that they have maintained a strong connection through these times of uncertainty.

Our participants had this to say about the project:

“It was fun to work on my collage while others worked on their own at the same time via a remote platform. It was wonderful to see people’s art as they completed it as well!”

“I enjoyed working on this collage project! I don’t have a clear image of my future plans, however this project helped me meditate on it.”

“I thought about how our community helps me move from the grey into the more colorful parts of my life.”

“I felt like I was a part of a greater community, a larger whole; even my collage reflected this concept. I liked that we were making our own creative collages in our own spaces then sharing it within the group remotely. I liked this project so much that I plan to continue making more!”

“There was no limit to our creativity!!! Everyone produced very creative and meaningful collages. I can’t wait to see the Connected While Apart communal tapestry with all of our artistic and creative expressions connected as one!”

art therapy activities domestic violence

Farah S.A., MAATC, LPC

I am an artist and art therapist practicing in Chicago. I operate from a cross-cultural understanding, and provide bilingual art therapy and counseling in both English and Arabic. My art therapy counseling practice is centered within an intersectional feminist and social justice lens, a trauma-informed approach, and a relational-cultural framework. I have offered my services in clinical and community-based settings. My clinical experience includes working with individuals of all ages who are domestic and gender-based violence survivors, refugees and immigrants and people recovering from trauma and substance use.

As a multidisciplinary studio artist, my practice is rooted in photography and expands into video, performance, fibers, projection, and installation. I attempt to capture the portals and spaces between two or more worlds, as I engage the performing body in movement from cultural to natural landscapes. My artwork explores the politics of seeing and the roles of access, agency and power in the displacement of identity as a material. As I continue to engage in my own studio practice, I see reflections of my research and material exploration bridge into my clinical work. Through our creative material exploration, participants can externalize inner experiences and create tangible, visual evidence of the changes they want to make in their lives.


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Mansfield Museum launches art therapy project for domestic violence survivors

The project will see at-risk women meet to learn about fine art through the museum's collection

Mansfield Museum is launching a therapeutic project for women who are survivors of domestic abuse.

Creative Women Together will see at-risk women meet in libraries, community halls and social spaces to learn about fine art through the museum’s collection.

The project comes as part of Mansfield District Council’s support for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a UN campaign that ran until Human Rights Day on 10 December.

The initiative is funded by a £89,680 grant from the Museums Association's Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund and aims to help 50 women already recognised by support services.

Weekly and monthly sessions run by a council community engagement officer, along with an art therapist and local artist, will look to help participants find employment, apprenticeship and volunteering opportunities.

The council’s portfolio holder for safer communities, housing and wellbeing, Marion Bradshaw, said: “Sadly in Mansfield too many women experience domestic violence, abuse and trauma.

“This can leave them facing long-term problems and feeling trapped in a vicious circle of very low self-esteem and poor mental and physical health. We hope this project will enable them to feel better about themselves and feel empowered to take positive control in their lives.”

Mansfield Museum curator Jodie Henshaw said: “We have always managed the museum as a progressive, interdisciplinary community space and community asset that has heritage and education driving its programmes.

“Creative Women Together will provide a healing journey for some of our most vulnerable citizens, a journey that is caring, loving, and non-judgemental.”

She continued: “Participants will be able to overcome barriers and explore their emotions by building their confidence and self-esteem. We hope they also make new connections and friends along the way.”

David Evans, head of health and communities at Mansfield District Council, said: “Mansfield is in the lowest 20% of all local authorities in England for cultural engagement and highest 20% of most deprived districts in the country.

“As a council, we are keen to address this and we are now seeing renewed investment in the arts and culture in Mansfield, specifically in areas of health and wellbeing and social prescribing, delivered in partnership with Mansfield and Ashfield Clinical Commissioning Group.”

He continued: “This work connects with a wider set of wellbeing priorities in which the council is involved, to deliver schemes to alleviate food insecurity and projects around smoking, low-level addictions and mental health.”

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art therapy activities domestic violence

Using Art to Process and Heal From Intimate Partner Violence

The Children’s Aid Family Wellness Program offers a variety of services to families with either past or present cases of domestic violence to help them achieve independence and stability.

In addition to group and individual counseling, we provide art therapy as a way to let survivors heal, process trauma, and improve overall well-being. Survivors displayed their artwork at the Heath Gallery in Harlem as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The artwork exhibited in “Survivors: Voices of Resilience and Hope” was created by survivors in both individual and group therapy. The women that created artwork individually did so with the intention of both raising awareness of intimate partner violence and as a way of empowering themselves and other survivors.

“Many of us know people impacted by intimate partner violence but are unaware of this fact due to the silence and isolation that exists around intimate partner violence,” said Sally Schuss, Assistant Director of Domestic Violence Clinical Services. “This art exhibit provided Family Wellness Program’s clients, survivors of intimate partner violence, the opportunity to give voice to their stories as a community by showcasing their therapeutic artwork that has enabled them to process their trauma and heal.”

The women used a variety of mediums to communicate feelings such as anger and hope and themes of family, stability, and financial freedom. Participants from the Family Wellness Program Women’s Group and the Brightly Cooperative, the first franchise worker co-operative in the United States, contributed art pieces.

Children’s Aid takes a holistic approach to helping victims of domestic violence. We provide counseling to women and to children who have witnessed domestic violence. We also run a 26-week abusive partner intervention program. The program aims to increase the safety for survivors and children and break the cycle of violence.

Schuss said there are many common misconceptions about domestic violence and people have a hard time understanding why survivors don’t simply leave their partners.

“There are a lot of barriers to leaving,” she said. “People love the person that they’re with, they have children with their partner, or there might be financial security that they’ll give up. The longer I work in this field, the more I am amazed that women are able to leave abusive partners given the difficulty.”

All of our work aims to give victims of intimate partner violence a space to regain their voices and establish long-term safe, stable, and nurturing homes.

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art therapy ideas | how to make art a therapeutic part of your life

Recently, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) partnered with Museo de las Americas to launch an art therapy exhibit, Las Adas , which will be on display beginning in October. The exhibit will display a kaleidoscope of beautifully handcrafted butterflies, submitted by domestic violence survivors, advocates and allies. Creating the butterflies – a symbol of hope, joy, new beginnings and transformation – is not only therapeutic for the artist but inspirational to those still suffering or recovering. You can learn more about this unique art therapy activity and download a template to create and submit your own butterfly here .

art therapy activities domestic violence


Teri Karjala is a Licensed Professional Counselor & Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the founder and Executive Director of Creative Counseling Center, LLC. Working in the field since 1999, Teri and her team of therapists specializes in counseling for those who have experienced trauma. They work with children as young as age 2, as well as teens and adolescents, adults, seniors, families, and couples.


If you have questions about counseling, would like to find out if counseling could help you or a loved one, or are interested in learning more about our services, just complete the brief form below to request a Free Phone Consultation. A member of our team will contact you shortly. After a brief conversation, we'll determine together whether our practice is right for you and which therapist may be best suited for your specific circumstance.

Finding the right therapist, one you click with, is less about the therapist's experience and qualifications and more about the therapist's personality. So let's talk. Let us match you with a therapist you have a high likelihood of clicking with. Fields marked with an * are required.


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art as therapy: painting the trauma of domestic violence

18 may 2021, lip magazine.

art therapy activities domestic violence

Emerging Artist Claire Cassey (Image Supplied)

Emerging Sydney artist, Claire Cassey, lived the first six years of her life as a child of domestic violence, often having to hide from her physically and emotionally abusive father. The imprint from that relationship followed her into adulthood and Claire lived through hell for over three years battling with the trauma inflicted by an abusive partner. But only now, sixteen years on and free, has she discovered how to use her love of art and, in particular, abstract painting, to help heal some of the longer lasting, unseen wounds. And in doing so, she hopes to show other victims of domestic violence the power of art as a therapy and means to cope.

‘It wasn’t until COVID arrived that I began painting and realised its therapeutic value, and [use it] to express how I was feeling through my art. COVID gave me the opportunity in terms of time as I was no longer commuting and was at home more, but the flipside was, my brain began working overtime, dredging up a lot of residual memories. I felt my mental health begin to deteriorate and I needed to find an outlet for my emotions,’ says Claire.

art therapy activities domestic violence

(Image: Supplied)

Using art as a form of therapy began in 1940, but it is only in the past twenty years that it has been recognised in Australia as a powerful tool to heal trauma.

Sydney based Registered Art Therapist, Justine Henderson, explains why art therapy can be so effective and why she is seeing a marked increase in adults seeking it as a means to cope since COVID: ‘A lot of adults have found themselves in challenging situations either at home or at work.  Art therapy provides a safe way for them to connect with their feelings and emotions and provides an outlet for creative expression and play – which often is lost as we become adults.  Art reconnects us with our identity. When we are creative, we express things that sometimes we don’t have the words for.’

‘I have seen an enormous increase in adults craving that lost connection and support; a sudden loss of connection with others brings up confrontation within ourselves and we begin to question our identity and where we fit in the world. The beauty of art as a form of therapy is that you don’t need to be an artist or have any level of skill or special equipment. You can start with anything; it could be as simple as a scrap piece of paper and a pencil or even using our finger in the sand or with a piece of chalk. That, and a good therapist to support you on your healing journey is a good start,’ explains Justine.

In Australia the impact of domestic violence is both alarming and sad:

  • Childhood experiences of domestic and family violence can lead to greater likelihood of adult experiences of violence
  • One woman every month is being killed due to some form of violence
  • One in six women are living with some sort of abuse – sexual, physical from someone they know
  • One in three men think punching a woman isn’t domestic violence
  • Two thousand women, every night, seek shelter.

Claire now paints her experience through her art. One of her paintings, sadly depicting the number of times she was abused, uses a symbol of her childhood as a mask, a reflection of the emotional scarring.

Claire describes how the “unseen depression” is painted as the pretty colours but there are marks of black within the picture, not obviously visible, which reflect the so well-hidden pain of domestic violence victims.

Although Claire’s art raises awareness of domestic violence, she is very keen to spread the message of art as therapy and encourage other women to have a go and take up art as a way of expressing themselves, to heal and to cope with the everyday stress or greater traumas that arise and may challenge our mental health.

You can view Claire’s first solo exhibition, The Art of Self (diss)Respect , from May 10 th  to May 30 th at Balmain Space ( 79 Beattie St, Balmain NSW 2041).

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Cities using the SDGs to reduce urban violence

Subscribe to the sustainable development bulletin, rachel locke , rachel locke director, impact:peace, joan b. kroc school of peace studies - university of san diego anthony f. pipa , and anthony f. pipa senior fellow - global economy and development , center for sustainable development @anthonypipa max bouchet max bouchet former senior project manager and senior policy analyst - global economy and development , center for sustainable development @maxdavidbouchet.

December 18, 2019

Despite growing prosperity as a leading urban center in Latin America, Mexico City is confronting “a crisis situation in … terms of violence,” according to its Attorney General. Mexico City’s Head of Government Claudia Sheinbaum has made safety a top priority, leading an all-hands-on-deck meeting on security every day, seven days a week. An integrated strategy to address the root causes of violence is underway, investing in both improved policing and reductions in long entrenched inequality and lack of opportunity for young people. This balanced approach recognizes the importance of addressing multiple intersections of inequality in successfully reducing violence, and is reinforced by the city’s endorsement of global agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) .

Urban violence is an issue not just for large municipalities such as Mexico City. Globally, 44 percent of residents of small cities face epidemic levels of violence . Perhaps contrary to popular opinion, these cities are not confined to conflict areas; rather the vast majority of lethal violence takes place in areas ostensibly at peace. In the United States, Violence impedes sustainable development. It undermines health, economic prosperity, access to education , and our broader aspirations for humanity. Its impact on community well-being becomes especially concrete at the local level, where it stresses social cohesion and resilience and reduces new business growth and local job opportunities .

SDG target 16.1 sets a global ambition to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths by 2030 and recognizes the centrality of peace to development. For this target, leadership at the city level is particularly relevant because of what we know about how violence concentrates. In Latin America, 80 percent of homicides concentrate around just 2 percent of street addresses. In the United States, less than 1 percent of a city’s population is typically driving over 50 percent of its serious violence.

While overarching public safety policies are necessary at the national level, the operationalization of law enforcement, community engagement, reduced inequality in the provision of public services, and nuanced analysis of violence trends can and should be taking place within cities. In order to be done effectively, it is crucial to advance and localize the range of evidence-informed practice on what works to address urban violence.

A localized SDG framework can provide useful insights along several lines:


Violence takes different forms. Understanding it requires appreciating the different motivations that contribute to its perpetuation. Too often policymakers think in silos—terrorism, war, domestic violence, child abuse, gang violence, organized crime–rather than appreciating the structural, behavioral, and facilitating factors that contribute to making violence, in its various manifestations, more or less likely.

The integrated nature of the SDGs provides a basis for city leaders to analyze and confront the multifaceted nature of violence head-on. Reinforcing violence prevention and enabling peaceful cities in the long term requires integrating and balancing a range of investments—from increasing gender equality (SDG 5), because more peaceful societies are more gender equal societies, and growing educational (SDG 4) and economic opportunities (SDG 8), to creating safe public spaces (SDG 11) and addressing discrimination (SDG 10). Single entry responses won’t get us far enough.

Best practice in reducing violence urges balanced approaches that activate not only law enforcement capacity, but also the capacities of broader investments in social services, education, improved job opportunities, trauma and behavior therapy responses, and urban renewal investments. These more individually- and community-driven investments are best crafted at the city level. EThekwini Municipality (Durban) is emphasizing a combination of violence prevention, community outreach, and law enforcement in its Safer Cities strategy . In February 2019, Durban started a city-wide community safety audit to identify needs and measure safety perception in various communities.

Applying these capacities in a coordinated way can help ensure the fair deployment of law enforcement that responds to community needs and priorities rather than state-defined parameters. Such responses—if done right—can build legitimacy between governments and the people they are meant to serve. This in turn increases cooperation and can lower impunity rates, an essential component of increasing overall safety.

This is just the kind of work in which Mexico City is investing, combining improved law enforcement with programs to address the root causes of violence. Large investments and dedicated efforts are expanding access to education, sports, decent jobs, cultural activities, and social infrastructure in historically marginalized neighborhoods especially prone to youth violence. In 2019, 150 community centers—part of an initiative called PILARES—offer academic support, economic autonomy, and cultural engagement, with a target of expanding to 300 by 2020. These expanded opportunities for young people complement efforts to address high levels of impunity, fight corruption, invest in community policing,

Data and measurement

Collecting, reviewing, and constantly analyzing data is key to disrupting negative patterns. Knowing the who, what, when, where, and how helps build strong cases, understand the dynamics of violence, and develop prevention and intervention responses. While for high profile criminal cases this type of data typically is gathered at the national level, often the lower profile, but perhaps more insidious, day-to-day incidents of violence receive far less attention. The lack of investigative or judicial follow-through can result in exceptionally high impunity rates (in the range of 80-90 percent) and pervasive and chronic violence that reinforce negative cycles of trauma and abuse.

The SDGs ask countries to report on the broad ambition of violence reduction, requiring aggregate level data on homicide rates, for example. These ambitions set a “north star,” the guiding point toward which policymakers can organize efforts. But measuring overall homicide levels will do little to practically lower levels of violence. Rather it is diagnosis using incident-level trends that facilitates prevention approaches that proactively address violence.

In Cali , Colombia, the homicide rate increased from 23/100,000 in 1983 to 104/100,000 a decade later. To address this spike, the mayor brought together analytic capabilities from the police, judiciary, forensic, health, and human rights representatives under the direction of an epidemiologist to better understand and prevent the transmission of violence. A few hours away, Bogota has connected sexual assault reports to mapping technology to spatially target police activity. The use of satellite imagery and mobile technology, like the Safetipin app, has also made data collection timelier and more precise. These types of specific, incident-driven data analytics help cities achieve better diagnostics concerning the presence of violence, which in turn helps to design more effective response and prevention efforts.

Public safety and other city officials need to use new models of engagement, knowledge, and analysis to identify and intervene with the people and places most actively involved in violence.

Pittsburgh is disaggregating its data on domestic violence, homicides, and property crime, and seeking to strengthen trust between its communities and the criminal justice system by changing the way police interact with the public, reducing implicit bias, and developing interventions sensitive to racial dynamics . But intervening with those involved in violence goes beyond law enforcement as has been demonstrated by Cure Violence and others actively engaged in outreach, mentoring, behavioral therapy, and more.

Maximizing city leadership

The experience of cities is varied, and there are a range of networks fostering city-to-city engagement to promote learning and exchange. The Global Parliament of Mayors just included a commitment to reduce violence levels by 50 percent by 2030 in its Durban resolution , with plans for its implementation still under development. The Africa Forum on Urban Safety and European Forum on Urban Safety are examples of regional platforms offering expertise and knowledge diffusion on building safe cities.

Part of a growing movement, cities around the world are strengthening their efforts to advance sustainable development by publishing Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) that measure their progress on the SDGs, including SDG 16. The spread of VLRs as a common language creates opportunities for novel peer-learning opportunities.

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October 29, 2019

And with target 16.1 as the inspiration, mayors from 12 cities around the world have joined the Peace in Our Cities campaign to call attention to the scope of violence in cities and the promise of evidence-informed investments to save and protect lives. The 12 early-adopter cities signed on to date are focusing on the most urgent violence priorities within the context of the SDGs. For many, this means reducing lethal violence; for others, it means addressing violence against women or trafficking in persons. As a collective action campaign, Peace in Our Cities will raise awareness of just how significantly violence in urban areas is harming human potential, while simultaneously heralding a call to action given the range of knowledge on successful approaches to lowering violence.

Just as the desire to live free from fear is a universal goal, the need to reduce violence is a universal imperative—one that all cities, no matter their state of development, share.

This article was informed by discussions at the Fall 2019 meeting of the Brookings SDG Leadership Cities Network , hosted by Mexico City.

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Moscow court restricts Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation

FILE- In this file photo taken on Friday, July 17, 2020, Russian opposition leader Ivan Zhdanov speaks to the media as police raids the offices of Alexei Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow has ruled Tuesday April 27, 2021, to restrict activities of an organization founded by Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a ruling on whether it should be outlawed as an extremist group. According to Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer representing the foundation, it is no longer allowed to use the media or the internet to distribute content, organize rallies and public events, take part in elections and use bank deposits. (AP photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019 file, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media in front of security officers standing guard at the Foundation for Fighting Corruption office in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow has ruled to restrict activities of an organization founded by Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a ruling on whether it should be outlawed as an extremist group. The Moscow City Court’s decision to restrict activities of Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption came amid a sweeping crackdown on President Vladimir Putin most prominent critic and his allies. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE- In this file photo taken on Friday, July 17, 2020, Police raid the offices of Alexei Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow has ruled Tuesday April 27, 2021, to restrict activities of an organization founded by Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a ruling on whether it should be outlawed as an extremist group. The Moscow City Court’s decision to restrict activities of Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption came amid a sweeping crackdown on President Vladimir Putin most prominent critic and his allies. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE- In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, Russian security officers walk at the Foundation for Fighting Corruption office in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow has ruled Tuesday April 27, 2021, to restrict activities of an organization founded by Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a ruling on whether it should be outlawed as an extremist group. The Moscow City Court’s decision to restrict activities of Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption came amid a sweeping crackdown on President Vladimir Putin most prominent critic and his allies. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE- In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, Police stand guard at the Foundation for Fighting Corruption office in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow has ruled to restrict activities of an organization founded by Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a ruling on whether it should be outlawed as an extremist group. The Moscow City Court’s decision to restrict activities of Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption came amid a sweeping crackdown on President Vladimir Putin most prominent critic and his allies. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

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MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow court on Tuesday restricted the activities of an organization founded by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a decision on whether it and his offices across Russia should be outlawed as extremist groups.

The ruling on the Foundation for Fighting Corruption by the Moscow City Court was another step in the sweeping crackdown on Navalny, his allies and his political infrastructure.

The Moscow prosecutor’s office had petitioned the court to label the foundation and Navalny’s network of regional offices as extremist groups and effectively outlaw their activities. Such a move would expose members and supporters to lengthy prison terms.

If the court grants the request, it would be a crippling blow to the beleaguered team of Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic. Navalny has been behind bars since January, and many of his aides and associates were arrested or face criminal charges.

On Monday, the prosecutor’s office issued an injunction ordering Navalny’s offices in dozens of Russian regions to suspend their activities, after which they effectively shut down. Tuesday’s court ruling on the foundation barred it from performing certain activities, and Navalny’s allies argued it wouldn’t affect the foundation’s work.

Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer for the foundation, said it is no longer allowed to use the media or the internet to distribute content or to organize rallies and public events, participate in elections or use bank deposits.

Such restrictions won’t disrupt the foundation’s work, said director Ivan Zhdanov, arguing that most of the restrictions don’t apply to the anti-corruption organization’s activities.

“Some nonsense,” Zhdanov tweeted. “(These) aren’t going to influence our work in any way.”

Still, Pavlov said he will appeal the court’s decision to impose the restrictions.

“It seems to me that the court hastily considered and sustained this motion of the prosecutor’s office,” Pavlov told The Associated Press, referring to the motion that was filed Monday.

Navalny’s foundation started 10 years ago and has alleged high-ranking government officials are corrupt by posting colorful and widely watched videos on social media platforms such as YouTube.

One of its latest posts, which has received 116 million views, alleges that a lavish palace on the Black Sea shore was built for Putin through an elaborate corruption scheme. The Kremlin has denied there are any links to Putin.

Along with the foundation, Navalny set up a network of regional offices in dozens of regions when he was campaigning to run against Putin in the 2018 presidential election. He eventually was barred from running but kept the infrastructure in place.

The regional sites began their own investigations of graft by local officials and recruited activists, some of whom later ran for public office themselves. The locations also were instrumental in organizing nationwide rallies in support of Navalny this year.

Navalny was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — accusations that Russian officials reject.

His arrest triggered protests across Russia that proved to be the biggest show of defiance in years. But they didn’t stop authorities from putting Navalny on trial for violating the terms of a suspended sentence while he was in Germany. The sentence stemmed from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has characterized as politically motivated. He was ordered to serve 2½ years in prison and last month was transferred to a penal colony notorious for its harsh conditions.

Navalny said he developed severe back pain and numbness in his limbs and began a hunger strike in order to get authorities to have his doctor see him at the penal colony. Instead, they moved him to another prison with a hospital ward. According to his physicians, his health had deteriorated significantly after he refused food for more than three weeks. He ended the fast after undergoing tests and examinations in a civilian hospital and getting a warning from his doctors that his life was at risk.

In an emotional message posted to his Instagram account Tuesday, Navalny thanked all the medical workers he has encountered in the past year — from those who treated him after the poisoning to nurses in the prison hospital. “After all, I understand they’re (acting) within limits imposed by their superiors, and in turn by the Kremlin. But I am seeing now that people are genuinely trying to help,” he said.

The foundation and the regional offices have been targeted regularly with raids, fines and detentions of activists before, but Navalny’s allies say the extremism petition takes the pressure to a new level.

It remains unclear what evidence the prosecutor’s office has against Navalny’s organizations because all court proceedings are taking place behind closed doors, and some of the case files have been classified as secret.

The defense team has been reviewing the files since Monday, and Pavlov told the AP they have not yet figured out exactly what implicates Navalny’s groups.

“So far (the authorities) have been trying to impress us with the quantity and not the quality of the evidence the prosecutor’s office uses to substantiate its demand to liquidate and ban the activities of these organizations,” he said.

Authorities in Moscow, meanwhile, continued their clampdown on people in connection with the April 21 demonstration in support of Navalny. Police didn’t interfere with thousands of protesters who marched in the central streets of the capital, but they arrested people in the days that followed instead.

Sergei Davidis, member of the Memorial human rights group, was ordered jailed for 10 days by a Moscow court on Tuesday for retweeting a post ahead of the protest. Davidis was detained Sunday.

Police also briefly detained two reporters who covered the Moscow protest who had to give statements about their work. Officers visited two other journalists to discuss what they did at the rally.

Some reports have suggested Moscow authorities used facial recognition technology to identify and detain those who attended the demonstration. Amnesty International condemned the reported use of facial recognition to target protesters.

“Previously the protesters’ main risk was being beaten and arbitrarily detained by police at a rally,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow office director. “As of now, avoiding this fate does not mean that you can feel safe -– the repressive state knows who you are and can come for you at any point.”

She added that “the risk of attempting to exercise your right to freedom of peaceful assembly has never been so high in Russia.”

Associated Press journalist Anna Frants contributed.


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Companies Linked to Russian Ransomware Hide in Plain Sight

Cybersecurity experts tracing money paid by American businesses to Russian ransomware gangs found it led to one of Moscow’s most prestigious addresses.

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Cybersecurity experts say millions of dollars paid by American companies in ransomware have passed through Federation Tower East, the tallest building in Russia’s capital.

By Andrew E. Kramer

MOSCOW — When cybersleuths traced the millions of dollars American companies, hospitals and city governments have paid to online extortionists in ransom money, they made a telling discovery: At least some of it passed through one of the most prestigious business addresses in Moscow.

The Biden administration has also zeroed in on the building, Federation Tower East, the tallest skyscraper in the Russian capital. The United States has targeted several companies in the tower as it seeks to penalize Russian ransomware gangs, which encrypt their victims’ digital data and then demand payments to unscramble it.

Those payments are typically made in cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies like Bitcoin, which the gangs then need to convert to standard currencies, like dollars, euros and rubles.

That this high-rise in Moscow’s financial district has emerged as an apparent hub of such money laundering has convinced many security experts that the Russian authorities tolerate ransomware operators. The targets are almost exclusively outside Russia, they point out, and in at least one case documented in a U.S. sanctions announcement, the suspect was assisting a Russian espionage agency.

“It says a lot,” said Dmitry Smilyanets, a threat intelligence expert with the Massachusetts-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. “Russian law enforcement usually has an answer: ‘There is no case open in Russian jurisdiction. There are no victims. How do you expect us to prosecute these honorable people?’”

Recorded Future has counted about 50 cryptocurrency exchanges in Moscow City, a financial district in the capital, that in its assessment are engaged in illicit activity. Other exchanges in the district are not suspected of accepting cryptocurrencies linked to crime.

Cybercrime is just one of many issues fueling tensions between Russia and the United States, along with the Russian military buildup near Ukraine and a recent migrant crisis on the Belarus-Polish border.

The Treasury Department has estimated that Americans have paid $1.6 billion in ransoms since 2011. One Russian ransomware strain, Ryuk, made an estimated $162 million last year encrypting the computer systems of American hospitals during the pandemic and demanding fees to release the data, according to Chainalysis, a company tracking cryptocurrency transactions.

The hospital attacks cast a spotlight on the rapidly expanding criminal industry of ransomware, which is based primarily in Russia. Criminal syndicates have become more efficient, and brazen, in what has become a conveyor-belt-like process of hacking, encrypting and then negotiating for ransom in cryptocurrencies, which can be owned anonymously.

At a summit meeting in June, President Biden pressed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to crack down on ransomware after a Russian gang, DarkSide, attacked a major gasoline pipeline on the East Coast, Colonial Pipeline , disrupting supplies and creating lines at gas stations.

American officials point to people like Maksim Yakubets, a skinny 34-year-old with a pompadour haircut whom the United States has identified as a kingpin of a major cybercrime operation calling itself Evil Corp. Cybersecurity analysts have linked his group to a series of ransomware attacks, including one last year targeting the National Rifle Association. A U.S. sanctions announcement accused Mr. Yakubets of also assisting Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main successor to the K.G.B.

But after the State Department announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to his arrest, Mr. Yakubets seemed only to flaunt his impunity in Russia: He was photographed driving in Moscow in a Lamborghini partially painted fluorescent yellow.

The cluster of suspected cryptocurrency exchanges in Federation Tower East, first reported last month by Bloomberg News, further illustrates how the Russian ransomware industry hides in plain sight.

The 97-floor, glass-and-steel high-rise resting on a bend in the Moscow River stands within sight of several government ministries in the financial district, including the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Signals and Mass Communications .

Two of the Biden administration’s most forceful actions to date targeting ransomware are linked to the tower. In September, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a cryptocurrency exchange called Suex, which has offices on the 31st floor. It accused the company of laundering $160 million in illicit funds.

In an interview at the time, a founder of Suex, Vasily Zhabykin, denied any illegal activity.

And last month, Russian news media outlets reported that Dutch police, using a U.S. extradition warrant, had detained the owner, Denis Dubnikov, of another firm called EggChange, with an office on the 22nd floor. In a statement issued by one of his companies, Mr. Dubnikov denied any wrongdoing.

Ransomware is attractive to criminals, cybersecurity experts say, because the attacks take place mostly anonymously and online, minimizing the chances of getting caught. It has mushroomed into a sprawling, highly compartmentalized industry in Russia known to cybersecurity researchers as “ransomware as a service.”

The organizational structure mimics franchises, like McDonald’s or Hertz, that lower barriers to entry, allowing less sophisticated hackers to use established business practices to get into the business. Several high-level gangs develop software and promote fearsome-sounding brands, such as DarkSide or Maze, to intimidate businesses and other organizations that are targets. Other groups that are only loosely related hack into computer systems using the brand and franchised software.

The industry’s growth has been abetted by the rise of cryptocurrencies. That has made old-school money mules, who sometimes had to smuggle cash across borders, practically obsolete.

Laundering the cryptocurrency through exchanges is the final step, and also the most vulnerable, because criminals must exit the anonymous online world to appear at a physical location, where they trade Bitcoin for cash or deposit it in a bank.

The exchange offices are “the end of the Bitcoin and ransomware rainbow,” said Gurvais Grigg, a former F.B.I. agent who is a researcher with Chainalysis, the cryptocurrency tracking company.

The computer codes in virtual currencies allow transactions to be tracked from one user to another, even if the owners’ identities are anonymous, until the cryptocurrency reaches an exchange. There, in theory, records should link the cryptocurrency with a real person or company.

“They are really one of the key points in the whole ransomware strain,” Mr. Grigg said of the exchange offices. Ransomware gangs, he said, “want to make money. And until you cash it out, and you get it through an exchange at a cash-out point, you cannot spend it.”

It is at this point, cybersecurity experts say, that criminals should be identified and apprehended. But the Russian government has allowed the exchanges to flourish, saying that it only investigates cybercrime if Russian laws are violated. Regulations are a gray area in Russia, as elsewhere, in the nascent industry of cryptocurrency trading.

Russian cryptocurrency traders say the United States is imposing an unfair burden of due diligence on their companies, given the quickly evolving nature of regulations.

“The people who are real criminals, who create ransomware, and the people working in Moscow City are completely different people,” Sergei Mendeleyev, a founder of one trader based in Federation Tower East, Garantex, said in an interview. The Russian crypto exchanges, he said, were blamed for crimes they are unaware of.

Mr. Mendeleyev, who no longer works at the company, said American cryptocurrency tracking services provide data to non-Russian exchanges to help them avoid illicit transactions but have refused to work with Russian traders — in part because they suspect the traders might use the information to tip off criminals. That complicates the Russian companies’ efforts to root out illegal activity.

He conceded that not all Russian exchanges tried very hard. Some based in Moscow’s financial district were little more than an office, a safe full of cash and a computer, he said.

At least 15 cryptocurrency exchanges are based in Federation Tower East, according to a list of businesses in the building compiled by Yandex, a Russian mapping service.

In addition to Suex and EggChange, the companies targeted by the Biden administration, cyberresearchers and an international cryptocurrency exchange company have flagged two other building tenants that they suspect of illegal activity involving Bitcoin.

The building manager, Aeon Corp., did not respond to inquiries about the exchanges in its offices.

Like the banks and insurance companies they share space with, those firms are likely to have chosen the site for its status and its stringent building security, said Mr. Smilyanets, the researcher at Recorded Future.

“The Moscow City skyscrapers are very fancy,” he said. “They can post on Instagram with these beautiful sights, beautiful skyscrapers. It boosts their legitimacy.”

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misstated the year in which Colonial Pipeline was hacked. It was 2021, not 2020.

How we handle corrections

Andrew E. Kramer is a reporter based in the Moscow bureau. He was part of a team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. More about Andrew E. Kramer

Inside the World of Cryptocurrencies

Changpeng Zhao, the founder of Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, pleaded guilty to money laundering violations , a stunning blow to the most powerful and influential figure in the global crypto industry.

For a small group of bankruptcy lawyers and other corporate turnaround specialists, crypto’s implosion has become a financial bonanza .

Is this crypto’s next craze? Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, has started a cryptocurrency project that aims to scan billions of human irises .

Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, is among the celebrities dealing with the fallout  from the 2022 crypto crash. Others, like Taylor Swift, escaped.

The lawyer Kyle Roche was a rising star in the field of cryptocurrency law — until his career imploded. Who orchestrated his downfall ?

Bitcoin mines cash in on electricity — by devouring it, selling it, even turning it off — and they cause immense pollution. In many cases, the public pays a price .


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