Art and Drama in Survivor Research: Nell Hardy, RATs

Nell Hardy is founder of Response Ability Theatre (RATs) and spoke eloquently about her innovative use of drama to both gather data and disseminate research findings.

She described how traditional academic routes for gathering and disseminating data can exclude survivors from participating in the generation of accurate and sensitive knowledge regarding abuse and neglect. Furthermore academic journals can be impossible to access due to pay walls and the jargon the peer review process perpetuates can impenetrable. Sometimes it can feel as those traditional academic institutions conspire to keep survivor researchers out or silenced.

Art and drama, on the other hand, are accessible and engaging. They can communicate through a felt sense in the audience member and thus be an instrument for change through the sensitive use of emotional and personal responses.

Survivor, and Lived Experience research is innovative and vibrant in claiming its own voice and seeking useful, congruent and speedy routes to reaching both participants and readership. The stakeholders who need the knowledge we generate may be swamped with reading and yet visual, embodied and auditory tools may garner more interest and engagement.

These papers support the use of the arts in research…but hopefully going forward people such as us in the Survivors Voices’ Researcher Community can add out own examples.

Nell spoke of two papers currently being prepared …look out for these:

Sebastian Kearney – Re-writing the Narrative: An Exploration of Trauma-Informed Improvisation, 2023
Andrea Heilman – Rehearsing best Practices: An Exploration of Trauma-Informed Practices in Undergraduate Acting Classrooms, 2022

Nell recommends these papers that have been published (click to download):

A trauma-informed analysis of monologues constructed by military veterans in a theater-based treatment program

The Truth N’ Trauma Project: Addressing Community Violence Through a Youth-Led, Trauma-Informed and Restorative Framework

Repeating Repetition Trauma and performance

And these papers on art and trauma informed our design of the T.R.A.U.M.A. cards research project:

Abramson, T.L., & Abramson, P. R. (2019) “Charting New Territory: the Aesthetic Value of Artistic Visions That Emanate in the Aftermath of Severe Trauma,” Contemporary Aesthetics (Journal Archive): Vol. 17 , Article 8.

Abramson, P.R., & Abramson, T.L. (2020) Should Art About Child Abuse Be Exhibited in Corridors of Health Professional Schools? AMA J Ethics. 2020;22(6):E525-534. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2020.525.

Daykin, N. (2020). Arts, health and well-being. A critical perspective on research, policy and practice. Routledge

Rouse, A., Jenkinson, E. & Warner, C.(2022) The use of “art” as a resource in recovery from the impact of sexual abuse in childhood: A qualitative systematic review, Arts & Health, DOI: 10.1080/17533015.2022.2034900