Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Publication Date



Visual and Performing Arts, College of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. James Al-Shamma

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


With the United States positioned as the leading nation in incarceration rates, the intentional use of theatre in order to achieve psychological growth and change within inmates is an invaluable asset to the healing of the imprisoned, specifically to incarcerated women who have undergone sexual trauma. Navigating prison for women is often combined with the trauma of sexual assault, as almost half the women in the nation’s jails and prisons were sexually abused prior to their imprisonment. With an emphasis on punishment, prisons often have the effect of retraumatization and revictimization rather than rehabilitation for abused women. Through the integration of dramatic therapy into prisons, female inmates are provided with the opportunity to collectively overcome and process and explore ways to cope with their feelings of worthlessness and PTSD symptoms that stem from their experiences with sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. The creation of theatrical rehabilitation programs in prisons allows for a safe space in which these women, confined and defined by their abuses, are able to empower one another to confront their past trauma. Theatre, in this way, serves as the means for their survival and an outlet to exercise their stifled voices.