Christy Burch didn’t think she was a writer. This was before she worked with rape crisis centers and with the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA), working with advocates statewide to support victims of violence.
While in these roles, she was instrumental in the release and pardon of thirteen incarcerated, battered women. She also discovered her writing side: Burch developed writing workshops and theater productions that became some of Kentucky’s most successful platforms for victim advocacy.
You may have encountered Burch’s work without knowing it: she co-created the Green Dot mission and Initiative—now used all over the country to teach violence prevention. (Think anti-bullying campaigns, violence awareness, rape prevention, etc.) Her theater productions include personal narratives written and performed by survivors of power-based violence, and some have toured all over the States. But what does this mean for Ploughshares readers?
University of Kentucky researchers studied Burch’s work and concluded that witnessing personal narrative performances about violence changed the attitudes of audience members, and significantly improved bystander behavior in response to violence. And 36% of survivors who participated in Burch’s art and advocacy programs went on to access additional services or support, vs. the national average of 3-6%. Add this to the growing evidence that writing is effective therapy for PTSD, and it becomes clear that creative writing can transform survivors and their communities.
If you’re a writer, this might seem obvious. Of course writing is powerful. Of course stories change people. But here’s the thing: if you’ve never spent serious time considering the community role that your own writing or teaching could be having—like, where you are right now—then maybe it’s not as obvious as you thought. And maybe your work can go further than you realize.
So during this “season of giving,” I asked Ms. Burch for her insights about what creative writing can do. Here’s to thinking big(ger):