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Healing power of art

Abused women in Philippines will be the recipients of works that reflect what brings them comfort.

March 13, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Artist Lawrence McAdams poses in front of one of his paintings titled "Rise" at his home studio in Corona del Mar. On March 15, Balboa Bay Resort will support the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that rescues victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM has partnered with My Refuge House (MRH) and We Step into the Light to connect 12 artists with 12 survivors of sexual violence in the Philippines.
Artist Lawrence McAdams poses in front of one of his paintings… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

The first time Linda Lawler spoke to Jacky she expected their conversation to be somber — sad, even.

Instead, she was taken by the joy and hope beaming from the young woman, whose real name and age are not being used to protect her privacy.

Laughter came easily to Jacky, a survivor of sexual violence who lives in My Refuge House in Cebu, Philippines, Lawler noted after they Skyped earlier this year.

"She actually enjoys studying and wants to be a teacher and help poor children and her family," the Newport Beach resident said. "She loves her family and friends and said that God inspires her."

The two were connected ahead of an International Justice Mission (IJM) benefit dinner at the Balboa Bay Resort on Saturday. My Refuge House, an IJM partner and safe home for young girls rescued from commercial sexual exploitation, collaborated with We Step Into The Light, a Southern California-based group that empowers survivors — or thrivers as they are known — of sexual violence by celebrating resilience, strength and inner beauty.

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Lawler is one of 12 artists who volunteered to exchange emails and video chat with 12 girls rescued by IJM, an agency that works with law enforcement officials in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and elsewhere to save men, women and children from human trafficking, modern-day slavery, sexual assault and other types of violent oppression. In 2013, IJM helped more than 3,500 individuals and since its inception in 1997 has protected an estimated 19,000 people from human rights abuses.

After corresponding a few times, Lawler learned that Jacky loves listening to Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" — it calms her, the young woman said — and enjoys watching the sunrise with her friends. Combining these two bits of information, the longtime IJM supporter produced a 16-by-20-inch oil-on-canvas painting depicting three girls bathed in the early morning sun's rays.

Their arms are raised to reflect a new day and life, Lawler said of the work, which shares its name with Jacky's favorite song.

"Their whole lives, these girls have been told that nobody loves them, that nobody wants them, that they are worthless, that they are like dirt," remarked Johanna Tropiano, IJM's director of strategic partnerships. "So then to have a group of 12 people from all the way around the world say that not only do we see you, hear you and know you, but we want to bless you in this way.

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