Episode 3: The Power of Untold Stories (with Rachel Monaco-Wilcox)
Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Rachel Monaco-Wilcox understands this. She founded LOTUS, a free victim rights legal clinic, and Untold Stories, a writing and art-making workshop for survivors of human trafficking. In this episode, we talk with Rachel about her work, as well as participants of the workshop who carry the torch and share their stories so that others may find their own way. Rachel is one of those people who blazes new trails, but she does not walk alone. She brings others along to find beauty, courage, and strength within themselves.
*A head’s up that this episode contains discussion of sexual assault and human trafficking. If this doesn't feel like the right time to listen, we invite you to check out extras below, including resources, and hope you'll tune in next month for the next episode of Human Powered.
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Rachel shared her story with Love Wisconsin in 2020.
"I was afraid that if I talked about it, I would blow up everything else that was safe in my life. I was smart enough to know the kind of impact that any disclosures would have had, so I didn't say anything. I think my sister possibly knew. My parents might have had some idea, like, ‘Something's wrong, but we’re not clear what?’ There’s a tendency to just keep everything moving forward. The resilience of kids is legend, but that just wasn’t my journey."
Read Rachel's Love Wisconsin story here.
When Human Powered visited Rachel at her home in 2021, she talked about her artwork and creative process.
"So you pick up the brush, and there's a piece of paper in front of you, and you just, you just have to let go. There are many times I fought with my art process. And that's something that I did this year that was a change for me. Instead of hiding my work in my notebooks, I put it up all over my walls, so that I could see, where am I at today? Where have I been? What are the colors that I'm using again? And again? What are the themes? Or the symbols that I'm using? What is this teaching me?"
You can find Rachel's artwork online here.
The Untold Stories writers workshop and survivor empowerment program is nationally recognized for its innovative approach that combines art therapy, creative writing, and law to help survivors process their trauma, reclaim their autonomy, and emerge with a sense of purpose and strength. To learn more about Lotus Legal Clinic and its Survivor Empowerment programming, please visit lotuslegal.org.
Every year, pre-COVID, they host a spring showcase with workshop participants. Wisconsin Humanities is proud to have supported this project for many years through our grant program.
Check out this short video from the 2018 event.
Some of the artwork and writing from the program is published in magazines, available from the website here.
Additionally, the Untold Stories 2020 Interactive Gallery and a series of videos bring these works to life.
"I want Jeffrey's name and legacy to be this work. I want him to be remembered as this legacy that we're going to be able to go out and tell others and share his story so that this doesn't happen to someone else." - Lisa
Lisa is a mom, as well as a parent advocate, educator, and public speaker. Her son Jeffery was a creative young man who loved writing and photography. He died in 2016 while he was being trafficked.
Most importantly, Lisa's message is a notice to every parent: Every single county in the state of Wisconsin has a trafficking case. She is working with law enforcement in Monroe County, where she lives, on the first program of its kind to address arrest policies for youth.
Additionally, know your rights. This document from LOTUS Legal Clinic provides Victim & Witness Rights in Wisconsin.
Rachel Monaco-Wilcox is an artist, lawyer, mentor, teacher, and consultant. Her work has served marginalized and exploited people (elders, those with special needs, and victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation or assault). Merging the power of the humanities with legal and social justice has been her unique professional niche. Rachel is the founder of LOTUS Legal Clinic, teaches Art Therapy doctoral students, and has a private practice in Trusts and Estates. In 2021 she founded a small publishing company called Minerva Press, LLC. She is also an accomplished ultramarathoner and raises Vizslas.
Traci Powell lives in Orlando where she is a writer and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner offering counseling to other survivors. She is working to start an Untold Stories program in Orlando.
Lisa McCormick is a mother and parent advocate. She served on a task force with former Governor Scott Walker to help end trafficking in Wisconsin.
Austin M. Reece is Director of Survivor Empowerment at LOTUS Legal Clinic, Lecturer in Philosophy at Mount Mary University, and a poet. At LOTUS Legal he develops and implements trauma-informed, humanities-based educational programming for survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking, and edits Untold Stories, a literary magazine that publishes survivor writings alongside visual art responses. His poems and essays have recently appeared in Crannóg, Rise & Thrive, The Milwaukee Independent, Bramble, and Coffin Bell, among others.
Host: Jimmy Gutierriez
Senior Producer: Craig Eley
Producers: Jessica Becker, Jen Rubin, and Jade Iseri-Ramos
Executive Producers: Brijetta Hall Waller and Dena Wortzel
Photographers: Gary Porter, Craig Eley, and Jimmy Gutierrez