WHAT is it like to be the victim of abuse? Most of us will never know.
Many Faces of Me, a local project and exhibition that tells the story of survivors of crime and abuse, might give people an insight.
Spirit Dreaming director Mel Brown came up with the idea of a workshop that would help survivors of crime through art therapy.
In the workshop 12 Aboriginal women from the Northern Rivers area got together for three days and worked on a series of masks that represented their journey through abuse.
Mel said the purpose of the workshop was to educate participants of the many emotional and behavioural aspects a victim of crime can experience, and use a range of therapeutic techniques to assist the participants to explore their responses to being a victim.
She said the stages included the time before becoming a victim, shock, denial, self-doubt and how they were after they had survived, or, for those still experiencing it, where they wanted to be in the future.
"Many abused people don't talk about it, and for the Aboriginal community art therapy is very important," Mel said.
"We made a digital story to go along with the exhibition, about the process of making the masks and being a survivor of crime. I put the DVD together, so I have seen it over 100 times and have cried every single time.
"Being a victim of crime affects everyone around as well. These women are very brave to share their stories and make them public."
One of the participants, Thelma Capeen, heard about the project through Mel and thought it was a great way to release her frustration, because she didn't talk about the violence she went through for many years.
"It takes a lot of courage to speak out, and I started to cry when I shared my story," Thelma said. "I think this will help women to know they don't have to stay in it - they can get out and get help.
"I now have a wonderful man who treats me like a princess, but I am still recovering.
"It was easier to paint the masks and think about the feelings than to speak it," Thelma said.
Mel thanked the women for sharing their stories.
"It took courage and many tears, but they did it selflessly for the purpose of helping their families and our communities better understand the effects of being a survivor of crime," she said. "Crime in Aboriginal communities is often talked about by everyone else, but rarely do the survivors get a voice in how it affects them."
The masks will be exhibited at Pulse Cafe on Keen St until July 6. For more information about Spirit Dreaming visit www.spiritdreaming.com.au.