Editor’s Note: The text below is from the official ADTA information sheet on this subject,  originally published in 2013 and written by Lunden Abelson-Hunter, BC-DMT, LPC. The PDF version of this text also includes a bibliography of selected publications on dance/movement therapy for women who have experienced trauma or violence. This clinical information sheet is available in English or in Spanish.

As the world once again rises this February 14 to protest violence against women and girls the world over, the American Dance Therapy Association invites you to share this information widely with others. One in three women on this planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, unless we unite to create change. There is hope. There can be healing. If you or someone you love needs help, reach out for support. To locate a dance/movement therapist near you, please consult the ADTA therapist directory.


Rooted in the mind-body connection, dance/movement therapy serves as a beneficial therapeutic approach when working with women who have experienced violence and oppression. Violence against women takes many forms: sexual violence, domestic violence, sex trafficking. This violence can occur in war torn countries, in dark alleys, while women are at parties, on dates or in the privacy of their own homes. Violence against women often occurs in secrecy, which increases the victim’s sense of helplessness. These attacks on women’s bodies can leave women with physical scars, but most often with psychological scars which increase a sense of fear, hyperarousal, hyper-vigilance, shame, and self-blame. They can diminish one’s sense of trust and wisdom in one’s own body.

Dance/movement therapy is a therapeutic intervention that provides an opportunity for survivors to process their trauma memories cognitively and physically. Working with the neurobiological principles of trauma and of memory making, dance/movement therapists guide their clients in experiences with movement, breath, relaxation and creating a trauma narrative. This provides an opportunity for survivors to make meaning of their memories and their sensations as they relate to the traumatic memories, their sense of self and their bodies. When a survivor is able to make meaning of the trauma and regulate her sympathetic nervous system she will then have the capacity to address behaviors or relationship patterns that may have resulted from the violence.

Violence against women is an effort to disempower women. Dance/movement therapy affords women with the experience that their body is nothing to be ashamed of and invites them to access their power, sense of agency, and wisdom.

Join the Revolution! Find a One Billion Rising event near you. Dance! Drum! Rise!





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