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Lisa Lucchese

The Effects of Viewing and Creating Spiritual Icons on Girls Who Are Domestic Violence Victims

         Iconic images of divinities from world religions are believed to radiate spiritual energy that brings people closer to the sphere of the sacred; what many call divine reality or God. In my work with children who had been victims of domestic violence, I noticed that sexual, emotional, and physical traumas seemed to have left them spiritually thirsty. Victimized girls had been subjected to abuse by fathers who were addicted to sex, alcohol, violence, and/or power. Their mothers, in recovery themselves from the effects of abuse, often struggled to give their children appropriate amounts of physical and emotional attention. Iconic figures of divinities embody the nourishment, confidence, and compassion the children’s own parents had not been able to provide for them.

In this thesis project, I examined the impact viewing and making spiritual icons had on girls who had been subjected to domestic violence. I began my examination of the topic by formulating a series of questions: Might the icons cause the girls to feel comforted? Could the icons, which have a wide range of strengths and personal characteristics, inspire the girls to identify and claim their own unique qualities and abilities? Might the stories of female goddesses who overcome tyrannical male figures serve to reinforce the girls’ own inner strengths? If given the chance to create their own personal icons, what significance would they have to the girls? Would these personal icons help them with the challenges of recovering from the effects of domestic violence?

In this project I worked with three girls who were residents at W.I.N.G.’s (Women In Need Growing Stronger), a transitional housing shelter for homeless women and their children who had experienced domestic violence. I exposed the three girls to stories and images of Buddhist, Christian, Taoist, Hindu, Tribal Native, and African-American religious icons. Each girl invented her own two-dimensional and three-dimensional personalized icons. As a part of the therapy process, the girls wrote narrative responses to their experiences with the viewing and making of the icons. Their writings, along with my documented accounts of their behavioral and affective responses, served as the basis for assessing the impact of spiritual icons on girls who have experienced domestic violence.


          Lisa Lucchese received her BA at Loyola University Chicago in sociology with a double minor in psychology and fine art. While at SAIC, she worked with women and children who have been victims of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse at Apna Ghar, an emergency shelter primarily serving Asian women and children.


Thesis Advisor: Catherine Moon, Assistant Professor, Art Therapy       

Thesis Reader: Suellen Semekoski, Adjunct Associate Professor, Art Therapy





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