By Judy Rosen
*This post contains references to violence and sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers.*
I was raised in a violent and abusive household. I was sexually abused by an uncle when I was very small – too small to say what had happened – and not regarded closely enough for it to be noticed. Because of this experience and the fear and brutality that living with untreated mental illness created, I learned that survival wasn’t guaranteed and to do whatever was necessary to avoid more pain. I also learned that the world was a scary place so living life in hiding and trusting no one was the only way to stay safe. My inner experience in life was one of a victim, my outer posture was one of a chameleon and I hid in alcohol and drug use for many years as I repeated the pattern of abusive relationships. This scenario is not uncommon. I am very fortunate that my story is one of survival – for many that is not the case. Finding my way to an excellent therapist who specializes in trauma therapy has helped tremendously. But the work has been long term, lonely and isolating and my ability to bond to others has been deeply impaired. As much as I want to be fully restored to trust in the world, violence done to one’s body and/or mind seems to trump that ability.
One day I picked up a flyer for a project being done by an organization called “The Angel Band Project”. They were looking for volunteers for a virtual choir of survivors of sexual or domestic violence, who would be taught a song that would be videotaped and shown at a fundraiser for this organization. I am a lifelong musician who uses my music to provide comfort and healing for others but music in the company of others and intended for my own healing – this was an entirely new thought – so I didn’t think. I just picked up the phone and asked to be part of it. I was given a music therapy session to learn a song called “One Voice” and then came to a recording studio to record this song and be interviewed. I saw the finished product at the rehearsal for the fundraiser where I was also part of a live chorus. I stepped off the stage and sat next to another survivor while the film played – and the 2 of us – strangers who never even knew each other’s names, laughed and cried at ourselves and the rest of the 16 of us on the film who were all shown individually/together singing this song. I felt something very powerful that day. It’s called solidarity.
Since that time, I’ve become an active member of The Angel Band Project and become involved in supporting the work of this non profit organization that shines the light on the reality of sexual and domestic violence in our culture and provides music therapy services and opportunities such as the virtual choir experience to survivors. This is about breaking the isolation that is so intrinsically a part of being violated. This is about coming out of the dark recesses of a mind that is burdened by feeling damaged and different into a community of people who are healing through music. For me, this is about redemption.
The Angel Band Project came about in response to a tragic night of sexual violence that claimed the life of one woman and left another woman, who survived the attack, forever changed. The family and friends of the woman who died, many of whom are professional musicians, found that the only agent of comfort that they could find was music. Two of the women, friends of the victim who died, realized the potential of music to heal from this kind of suffering and thus the Angel Band was formed. The Angel Band Project’s mission is to break the silence surrounding sexual and domestic violence while promoting healing for survivors through the power of music. In the years since it’s formation, The Angel Band Project has grown as a result of donations, grants and the underwriting of programs.
All of the services that are offered through Angel Band are free of charge. The music therapy sessions, the virtual choirs and a cd that we are in the midst of producing called “Songs of Survival” have been funded solely though donations. The Angel Band partners with other local organizations that work with victims of sexual and domestic abuse, making their music therapy programs available to all they can. Based in St. Louis, Missouri since it’s inception, The Angel Band Project has been slowly expanding to other states; to reach other victims who find solace, comfort and healing through music. There was a virtual choir created in Seattle, Washington, the promise of expansion into New York City and a virtual musical project via web submissions in the works which could unite survivors globally.
I have gotten to know Rachel Ebeling, one of the two co-founders and the Executive Director of The Angel Band Project. She spends most of her time writing grants, soliciting funding, planning events and fundraisers and doing everything that she can think of to expand The Angel Band Project’s services. She is tireless, she is committed, she is always trying to do more. We were talking the other day, in light of the recent court ruling of a rapist and the simple truth is this: As awful as it is, rape continues. Women are violated every day and left to live with it. There are wonderful organizations educating on rape prevention and there are safe houses where women can flee to in the midst of their violent lives. But the damage still is being done. The Angel Band Project offers something after the fact that I believe changes lives for the better. Providing a desperately needed balm to injured souls and comforting their bruised hearts through the power of music.
Watch a video from The Angel Band’s Virtual Choir project.
Support is greatly appreciated so that The Angel Band Project can continue, can expand, can help more survivors.
Grateful Member of The Angel Band Project