Emprove Foundation

A place for #WomenSurvivors of domestic abuse

Edited by Scott Green, photos by Stefan Stefanov

You may have heard of the “Awakening Between the Lines” exhibition held earlier this year. But have you heard of the foundation behind it?

Emprove Foundation was founded with the mission of helping women in toxic relationships, debunking myths around a topic that is still taboo, and fostering a deeper public awareness of domestic abuse. They work to raise awareness about the earliest signs of relationship violence, change societal attitudes, and support women and girls who have experienced violence. Emprove raises awareness through art because art helps, heals, inspires, and revives.

Their activities and services include:

- free psychological and legal support for women survivors of violence
- public campaigns for early prevention and awareness
- support programmes for employers
- group therapy sessions
- art initiatives
- coaching
- training
- events

They are building a first-of-its-kind community in Bulgaria of #WomenSurvivors (#ЖенитеSurvivors.) A community of women who have successfully left abusive relationships, and are actively supporting other women on their journey toward change and a new life.

In May and June 2022, Emprove Foundation held an exhibition called “Awakening Between the Lines” combining literature and fine art to express the stories of women. These stories were created with the help of Dr. Will Buckingham and Dr. Hannah Stevens from Wind and Bones who coached these women in creative writing.

During the exhibition visitors had the opportunity to read between the lines, to experience the emotional impact of these artworks, both literary and visual, and the unique sensibilities of their creators. Below are some of the many stories shared at the exhibition.

She. Twenty years old. Youth. Fragility. She loved, but was not loved. She wanted to change. To change a man for the better. To save, to give love. To give wings.
It was decades until she stopped trying. Until she listened to the thump, thump thump of her heart. A heart that had survived. Weakened. But somehow stronger than ever.
She! She! She! Once a girl of twenty, on the threshold of forty. Free to breathe. To wake up. To be.

He stroked the feather tattooed on her back: her vision of freedom. The flame tattooed on his arm had no meaning. It was just so. 
First, he caressed her back. Then he threw things. Later, when she was pregnant, her back bore the bruises where he kicked her.
The last thing he saw was her back as she left.
She took only the flame from his arm, fire for the phoenix within her, to be born again and fly.

A story that liberates
For the twentieth time, I tell my story of change. How I built a thriving life from utter ruin. The audience listens intently. They nod, follow every word.
When I first told the story, I told it quietly. To free myself. To find peace. To forget. Over time, the story separated itself from me. Other women saw themselves in it. It grabbed them, propelled them. It gave them hope.
Now, the story has a life of its own. It is for everyone.

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