Drawing as Working Through Sexual Violence
In this essay, I explore examples of what I call graphic trauma and the process
of drawing as a form of working through the experience and event of sexual violence. I contend that comics and graphic narratives are a medium well-suited for rendering trauma, and the trauma of sexual violence in particular, as I show in an analysis of Una’s graphic narrative Becoming Unbecoming and Chanel Miller’s animated short film I Am With You. I argue that for both artists, drawing becomes a form of consciousness-raising, a collaborative feminist practice of memory
work that attempts to create conditions – formal, therapeutic, and political – for women to say #MeToo and “we.” In my readings of Una’s and Miller’s draw-
ing as working through sexual violence, I also demonstrate close verbal/visual description as a practice of care that keeps the testimony moving, drawing out the feminist practice of memory work in time and space and across modalities. A brief coda at the end of the essay offers an image of a hybrid figure from Miller’s graphic iconography and a concept and practice she calls “the third element.” I argue that this third element functions as a formal provocation for counter- modalities that change the story of sexual assault, creating a portal to resistance and healing.
Copyright (c) 2021 Lisa Diedrich
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