Multimedia performance shows one woman’s journey of sexual assault, healing

Brianne Carlon

Melissa Lopez, a Middle-Eastern dance instructor, choreographed and performed her own interpretive dances while original survivor artwork was shown behind her at the Kiva Saturday evening. Her performance was part of “The Healing Circle.”

Credit: Beth Rankin

Shenna Grimm, a survivor of 10 years of sexual abuse, had been molested by her stepfather since she was 8.

“Her story blew me away. It was the most horrific thing I had ever heard,” said Gary Lockwood, artistic director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, as he spoke about Grimm’s sexual assault story.

After hearing her story, Lockwood said he decided he would be the first man she could trust, and he would do whatever he could to put her abuser in prison.

Three years later, he produced “The Healing Circle,” a multimedia performance at Kent State. The event was held Saturday in the Kiva.

About 60 people attended to see the story of one person’s journey from sexual assault to healing through dance, live music, spoken text and video art.

Lockwood said when she came to him in 2002, Grimm was skinny, sad and shy with sunken eyes.

He said he learned Grimm had been artificially inseminated by her stepfather and became pregnant with his child. She later put the child up for adoption.

Lockwood obtained Grimm’s medical records and discovered that authorities had documented abuse and strange behavior but never followed up on it, he said.

“The subject is so ugly. No one wanted to talk about it,” he said. The court system was slow, and he was given the “run-around.”

“No one did anything until I called ‘The Montel Williams Show,’” he said. Lockwood, Grimm and her lawyer appeared on the show.

“I was really moved by the strength of the women I was meeting who had been sexually assaulted or raped,” Lockwood said. “It inspired me to produce ‘The Healing Circle.’”

Lockwood said he asked for the help of Mike Hovancsek, a musician from Akron, in creating and writing the piece.

“The idea was to create something that was detailed enough to feel personal and universal enough to represent the experience of many different people,” Hovancsek wrote in the program.

Hovancsek shared his talents by combining instruments and tunings from many different cultures with improvisation and extended playing techniques. He was also the director and video artist.

Melissa Lopez, a Middle-Eastern dance instructor, choreographed and performed a number of interpretive dances. She also sang two songs.

Percussionist Joe Culley joined Hovancsek to create live music, and Mark Allender, a musician and writer, narrated the performance.

The performance included a movement where Lopez was covered by a cloak that represented the initial feelings of oppression a person may feel when he or she is sexually assaulted. She eventually struggled to be free.

Allender used a chalkboard to give the audience a lesson about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as if it were an after-school special. Other dry statistics also were given.

Video also was used to show artwork that was done by sexual assault survivors as a therapeutic tool for their healing.

Grimm said it was love and friendship that helped her to overcome her situation and find justice.

“I met my fiancé, Greg, and realized this wasn’t normal,” she said, adding, “a lot of good friends helped me through.”

“And they stuck with her,” Lockwood added.

Grimm was awarded $4 million against her stepfather and more than $200,000 from the hospital for neglect, Lockwood said.

“Now Shenna has a steady job, a long-term relationship. She drives, she smiles and she laughs,” he said. “That is just proof that the healing circle works.”

Contact student life reporter Brianne Carlon at [email protected].