From a very early age we are taught right from wrong, what’s normal and where the social boundaries are. But what happens when something goes wrong in that process of enculturation?

Debra Barry endured a childhood peppered with repeated abuse in various forms, normalised by its familiarity.

Though she has long since escaped the danger, the ramifications of what other people did to her have bled into every aspect of her life.

The hurt has manifested as health problems, trust issues, drug dependency, self harm and mental illness including suicidal feelings, but over time she has developed strategies to minimise their impact on herself and others.

She has learned to recognise and avoid the triggers and discovered a valuable emotional outlet in art.

Debra’s drawings are intricate and laden with symbolism. Her work sells well and she donates her earnings.

She is currently preparing for her next solo exhibition, 100 Drawings for 100 Charities. You can see some of her work at

Listen to Debra talk about the symbolism of her art:

Where survivors, friends and relatives can go for support or information:

1800 RESPECT is the national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling and support line (1800 737 732). It is free to call from landline phones, available all hours and provides information and advice for family, friends and professionals helping survivors of abuse.

People living in Brisbane can visit Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre (BRISSC) online or call (07) 3391 0004.

Young women in Brisbane can access Zig Zag resource centre online or by calling (07) 3843 1823.

Children and young people can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit the website.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) offers its professional support line 1300 657 380 during business hours and provides news and information on its website.

Abusive partners can access counselling and join support groups through Relationships Australia, which also provides support and counselling for abused partners. Visit the website or call 1300 364 277.

Males who want to support survivors and/or take action to help prevent violence towards women can visit White Ribbon, a male-led initiative. White Ribbon also lists a number of state-based organisations offering help for those suffering abuse.

The Queensland Domestic Violence Telephone Service is available on 1800 811 811.

Queensland’s Sexual Assault Help Line is 1800 010 120.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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  • Debra Barry

    I personal want to thank everyone involved for helping put this together 🙂 and say that the respect that was given to me while I was sharing my life was moving 🙂 I hope my story can be seen as a positive tool that helps people make connections ! Sending you all smiles 🙂 Deb

  • Ms Vicki Jennison

    You are a very beautiful strong woman. I can relate to your life. Thank you for letting me into your life. You are an Inspiration and your Artwork is magnificent. I’m happy to be able to embrace your journey. I have only known you a short time and you have been a great friend and I hope to stay part of your life. We can understand each other with respect for each other without any judgement. Again, Thank you for letting me into your life. Take care and I do hope and pray you find someone you can let in and find Love again. You deserve it and you will find it. No one is here to be alone. You are cared about and loved. Never give up for you now have me who cares , understands and will not judge you. No one is perfect. We all Break, it’s just nice to have someone you can talk to and chill out with without any fear. I hope we stay friends as I have learnt so much from you in such a short time. I find you very Amazing, Strong, Understanding and very Caring. Your Artwork is beyond words to me. You are Terrific. Don’t ever stop SHINING. YOU ARE THE RAINBOW. 🙂

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