The image of a teenage boy solemnly looks out from the canvas. His eyes, ringed with black paint, reflect the sad tale of a sexually exploited young artist who committed suicide after six years of abuse at the hands of a family friend.
Today, the tragic painting will help train 250 teachers and social workers who work with sexually abused Brooklyn children to see that abuse through the tormented eyes of the youngest victims.
"I'm hoping that hearing this story will begin to address our hearts, reminding us what child victims go through," said Ama Dwimoh, an assistant Brooklyn district attorney who prosecutes child abuse crimes.
"It's not just our intellect. We can talk about signs [of abuse], protocols and programs," said Dwimoh.
Although today's workshop at St. Francis College will feature only one painting - a self-portrait of Justin Wilke - the full exhibit is based on his and his older brother Matt's writings and artwork. Both were abused as children by a family friend in Maryland, and both committed suicide in their early 20s.