Karen Hawkins Helps Survivors Tell Their Story with the Pink Bow Project

Austin is a one-of-a-kind city when it comes to art and individual expression. Whether you’re a musician, a painter, a writer or just a creative with a unique vision, Austin is a haven for artists of all kinds. Which is why the talented Karen Hawkins chose this eclectic city for one of her most recent artistic social outreach programs.

The Pink Bow Project is a very powerful art exhibition by Karen Hawkins that is helping raise awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention month. This immersive multi-media display fully surrounds the audience in a sea of pink bows, each representative of a survivor of child abuse. “The Pink Bow Project is my response to the seemingly ungraspable struggle of childhood sexual abuse,” says Karen about her awe-inspiring art piece. In the distance, you can hear a haunting recording of the voices of abuse survivors reciting their names and the ages that they were affected.

Adverse Child Experiences, or ACE’s, are traumatic events that occur before the age of 18 and range from abuse and neglect to substance abuse and sexual abuse. According to recent studies, 12.5% of the general population has had an adverse child experience like sexual abuse including Karen Hawkins herself. Unfortunately, a shocking percentage of childhood sexual abuse victims know their abusers, and many survivors of abuse feel overwhelming guilt and shame. The long-term after-effects of childhood sexual abuse can cause serious mental health challenges, including drug use, PTSD and major depression. And while many survivors are able to openly talk about their past, others are shamed into silence and imprisoned by their pain.

In order to shed light on these victims, Karen turned an entire room at the Gallery Shoal Creek into an exhibit for the Pink Bow Project. Inside, viewers wind their way through a bright maze of 40 floor-to-ceiling fabric panels covered in small pink bows as they read haunting statistics and poignant excerpts by the artist on the walls. At the end of the exhibit is a large white wall with bold lettering that reads, “My Name is Karen Hawkins. I Was 10 Years Old.” As a survivor of child abuse, the Pink Bow Project is very near to artist Karen’s heart: “Though childhood sexual abuse is a common experience, it is still extremely difficult to talk about. It is hard to know, and once known, impossible to forget.” This cathartic art experience gives a voice to abuse survivors all over while also helping Karen express and overcome her own grief. According to Hawkins, “It is an anthem meant to honor the brave voices that have broken their silence and an invitation to the quieted voices to speak out.”

Both Karen Hawkins and The Pink Bow Project are a shining example of the trials of the human spirit and what we can accomplish when we stop running from the pain of our past and instead embrace it. Don’t miss your chance to marvel at the emotional outpouring that is the Pink Bow Project in Austin at the Gallery Shoal Creek, now through May 12th, 2018.


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