Student in Focus: Isabella Saeedy (‘23), Artist


Oma Sukul

Isabella Saeedy (‘23) with her book “The Domestic Violence Awareness Project”

Successfully raising awareness about different issues in society requires a lot of dedication and demanding work, a challenge that Isabella Saeedy (‘23) took on last summer. She created a short graphic story about domestic abuse for the Los Angeles Public Library.

Called “Arthur’s Story,” it is part of a compilation of essays and other graphic stories created by teen volunteers from Strength United, a chartered domestic, sexual, and child abuse center created by California State University Northridge. The works are in a book about domestic abuse: “The Domestic Violence Awareness Project.”

“Over the summer I felt like I needed to contribute to my community, I had a desire to help and I wanted to do it in a way that was most fulfilling to me,” Isabella said.

Isabella mentions how passionate she is about writing and drawing, so when she stumbled upon the program “Close to Home” by Strength United, she knew it was the perfect opportunity to showcase her artistic ability and her passion for helping others.

The program involved 15 teenage volunteers, who over the course of the summer, attended weekly classes on domestic violence and learned about the different forms of abuse. They also had regular Zoom meetings with graphic artists to learn more about digital art. Each volunteer created a digitally drawn case study, highlighting different forms of domestic abuse. They worked on their projects for the entire summer.

“We had an August deadline and we started in June, so it took up pretty much the whole summer. [Personally], I think [I took] a month to two months with planning out, drawing, and story writing because I came up with the story myself and drew the whole thing myself,” Isabella said.

“Arthur’s Story” is about Arthur, a young man who suffers from a car crash and must depend on his girlfriend to help him during recovery. As time goes on, his girlfriend abuses her power over him by using his money to buy expensive items and isolating him from friends and family. In the end, Arthur finds help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The story covers financial, emotional, and psychological abuse. Financial abuse involves the control of money when it is withheld or used against someone. Not being allowed to work, not having access to personal accounts, and not being included in financial decisions are all signs of financial abuse.

“I felt like financial abuse was not one that a lot of people knew about, and I chose to display this form of abuse because I have seen it happen and it’s not a well-known form of abuse that requires more attention, ” Isabella said.

Isabella’s initial goal when joining this project was to raise awareness. Many people have one image of what domestic abuse looks like, but it encompasses many types of abuse that are often in combination. When informed about the different types of abuse, people can identify when it occurs and seek help when needed.  Aside from the case studies, the book includes a glossary of terms used, hotline numbers, and addresses of different organizations that fight domestic abuse.

“The fact that it is in multiple Los Angeles Public libraries, that I can go to the page and see that it has gotten checked out, and just knowing that people are reading it, helps assure me that people are benefitting from this,” Isabella said.

The Domestic Violence Awareness project was Isabella’s first published work, and in the future, she hopes to continue to help her community and raise awareness about different topics through literary activism.