Engage, Empower, and Heal
Founded in 2016 by attorney Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, LOTUS Legal Clinic is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking (both sex and labor) by providing no-cost comprehensive legal services through its Legal Services Department as well as its own trauma-informed, humanities-based educational programming through its Survivor Empowerment Department.
Valuing a wholistic approach to survivor empowerment, LOTUS has developed two sister art education programs, Untold Stories and Rise & Thrive, that aim to engage, empower, and heal survivors through the practice of literary art (poetry and creative non-fiction) and through unique collaborations with local artists working in the community. The Survivor Empowerment department also assists with advocacy writing and victim impact statements, as well as helping survivors who are interested in public speaking opportunities.
Untold Stories is a humanities-based, trauma-informed educational program that pairs the creative writing of survivors with visual art responses by University student-artists at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. The literary art—poems and creative non-fiction—is created and shaped in LOTUS’ own writing workshops designed for survivors that focus on the untold stories of sexual trauma and its aftermath. The pairings of survivor-writings and response artworks are shared widely within the community through LOTUS-organized poetry readings, art exhibitions, a community showcase, and a literary magazine.
Untold Stories helps survivors collaborate and generate literary and visual art that provides an opportunity for creative expression, personal healing, and genuine community. It stands for the belief that personal transformation, empathic connection, and catharsis through art are a necessary part of empowering survivors.
Interested in signing up for a workshop?
Rise & Thrive
The Rise & Thrive program invites 6 Untold Stories alums back to reflect and write poetry about their resilience, what gives them joy, and in what ways, big or small, they are thriving in their life, and to collaborate with local professional artists who create their own unique art in response to and inspired by the survivor writings. In the most recent iteration of the program, participants were asked to provide a photograph of a natural landscape or seascape that signifies and symbolizes their story of resilience and finding joy, and to write poetry about what this place means to them and why it is important. These poems, created and developed in LOTUS-led writing workshops and 1-on-1 writing sessions, were given to painter Brianna Seipel and filmmaker Michael Snowden who created 6 beautiful paintings and 6 powerful short films that were published online (e.g., Mudita Magazine) and exhibited throughout greater Milwaukee (e.g., The Northwestern Mutual Art Gallery at Cardinal Stritch University and The Women’s Center in Waukesha).
In 2022, LOTUS debuted its first annual Rise & Thrive artist residency with musician Marielle Allschwang who l created songs in response to survivor poems created in workshop.