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In 'Abuse Project' Art Exhibit, Rape Victim Aims To Heal Wounds

By Linze Rice | July 14, 2016 9:13pm | Updated on July 15, 2016 7:53am
 Artist Lauren Wilkins tells her personal story of surviving abusive relationships with her newest work,
Artist Lauren Wilkins tells her personal story of surviving abusive relationships with her newest work, "The Abuse Project: No More Silence, No More Fear."
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Instagram/Lauren Wilkins

ROGERS PARK — Lauren Wilkins always knew she wanted to be an artist — but what she'd create, she wasn't sure. 

Now, at 25, Wilkins' art through "The Abuse Project: No More Silence, No More Fear" is touching people in a way that unites viewers through both painful experiences and a strength to not live in silence.

The multi-media project uses Polaroids, found photographs, dried flowers, self-portraits of Wilkins and Wilkins own photography, among other things, to explore topics like rape, emotional and physical abuse and unhealthy relationships — things Wilkins has lived through herself. 

"I was depressed. My first time ever having sex I was raped. And then last year I'd just gotten out of an abusive relationship," Wilkins said. "After that relationship, I was kind of fed up with being silent. All these things were happening to so many people, and I knew I wasn't the only one — but I felt like I was the only one."


Untitled, 2014 🌹

A photo posted by @abuseproject on

Wilkins said after being raped at age 16, she kept it a "secret" until about two years ago when she opened up about her experiences with her parents. 

After coming back from studying in Italy in 2012, the Columbia College grad said she started focusing her artwork, primarily photography, on herself. 

Once she began working with her therapist to address her history with abuse and trauma, Wilkins said she slowly but surely was ready to take a deep look within and use her experiences to create art.

"I basically looked at myself in two ways: either my life is going to go crumbling and I'm going to feel sorry for myself and not let me become the person that I am and I can let this destroy me, or I can make artwork and try to come out the other side," Wilkins said.

She began working on "The Abuse Project" in October, but Wilkins said she's "really been working on it my whole life."

The photos that have so far appeared online have drawn tremendous support from friends, family, other artists and people who have gone through, or are currently going through, similar experiences, she said. 

"That's why I'm doing this," Wilkins said. 

By the late fall, she said she'd like to be able to showcase the project at the Filter Photo Festival, and eventually a gallery for the public to see. 

Having gone through abuse, Wilkins said it "doesn't get easier, I'm just dealing really well," and that the project — similar to healing — has been an ongoing process with no solid deadline. 

Now working on the "The Abuse Project" full-time, Wilkins said she recently moved to Rogers Park with her boyfriend and has "never been happier."

The support she receives from friends, family and the community are why she "moved to Chicago in the first place."

"This is why I moved to Chicago in the first place ... people in Chicago, they care about each other," Wilkins said.

Part of the "Abuse Project" by Lauren Wilkins. 

Part of the "Abuse Project" by Lauren Wilkins. 

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