This summer, SSUSA Executive Director Dee Clarke was awarded a Printers Without Margins Fellowship by Pickwick Independent Press. The fellowship provided an opportunity for fellows to collaborate with a Pickwick artist to create a design on a postcard or broadside expressing something important about their organization or artistry, and to create 100 copies. Dee chose to create postcards to engage supporters and legislators around SSUSA’s campaign to win vacatur for Maine survivors of sex trafficking and sexploitation.
As Dee shares: For the last 3 years, SSUSA has expressed the need for vacatur, only to be met with pushback. For 3 years we have been told it is unconstitutional, because we already have a law in place: pardoning. Pardoning is more about forgiveness, and vacatur is an admission that the survivor did not commit a crime, and therefore that conviction/charge becomes null, nonexistent and wiped out.
Dee was paired up with Pickwick Director Pilar Nidal and also invited SALT members to join in the collaborative process of making a compelling piece of art that would also be used to communicate the importance of vacatur to legislators and spread the word about the campaign in the 2019 legislative session.
Dee explains the process this way: Several survivors and myself first met with our instructor to educate her on who we are, about sex trafficking and sexploitation, what vacatur is, and what it means to us and why it’s necessary, which led into the artistic phase, planning and designing. I saw a new freedom amongst my friends. All while sitting together pitching ideas of what our post cards would look like, sketching various designs and figuring out the right word choices and explaining what’s wrong with other words.
The design of justice scales conveys how much more weight vacatur carries in improving the lives of survivors, by reducing stigma and removing practical barriers for survivors to housing, jobs, and involvement with their children’s lives. SSUSA sees vacatur as a powerful intervention in the lives of Maine’s Forgotten Women, which will also help survivors break cycles of poverty, violence, and exploitation so their children do not become more Last Girls.
Reflecting on her experience in the fellowship, Dee said: I especially appreciate the commitment from our instructor in that she was down with other survivors taking part. We created art together, but also many layers of social oppression of who we are peeled away during the collaboration. Thank you for that!!!!