'We Can Shine A Light On It': Domestic Violence Survivors Share Their Stories
It’s been just over a year since the #MeToo movement exploded. RESPONSE, a Roaring Fork Valley organization working to end sexual abuse, is marking the occasion, as well as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with a storytelling event called "My Response" at the Wheeler Thursday night. They're hoping stories of survival might create a ripple effect that statistics can’t.
Genevieve Villamizar is one of five people who take the stage to share their experiences of domestic violence and sexual assault on Thursday. She knows telling her story has been key to healing. When she sat down to craft a narrative about a past abusive relationship, she didn’t feel the helplessness or isolation that she used to. Instead, she felt power.
"I could focus on one moment that showed change for me. That made it so clear how far I had come," she said.
The past year has seen more survivors coming forward to talk about their experiences. Villamizar said the power of these voices make percentages personal when it comes to the impact of abuse.
"We can crack it open, and we can shine a light on it," she said.
Villamizar hopes people who don’t think their lives have been touched by abuse will be in attendance tomorrow.
"Don’t kid yourself. Open your eyes. Look around. One in four. One in four, honey. That’s all I’ll say," said Villamizar.
Shannon Meyer, the executive director of RESPONSE, said when survivors go public, there’s a snowball effect.
"People look around and see what happens to other people when they talk about something that’s happened to them. The more and more we see people coming forward, the more people will find that’s acceptable, and I do feel it’s tipping the balance," said Meyer.
Four women and one man will take the stage Thursday. The youngest storyteller is just 17. One is a police officer. Meyer said the variety of speakers shows that anyone can be a victim.
“Domestic abuse is not always a black eye. Sometimes it’s years of emotional abuse and financial isolation. People stereotype who becomes victimized, and from our experience in this valley, it runs the gamut,” she said.
Even though Villamizar found that writing her story for herself was powerful, the prospect of telling it to others was terrifying. But she wants to show those who are currently in abusive relationships that they can rebuild their lives.
"If I can show that it’s possible to get out, I’ll be vulnerable, I’ll cry on stage, I’ll cry in practices, I’ll cry when I’m writing it," she said.
Those tears just might be transformative, for the storytellers and for the audience.
"My Response" starts at 5 p.m. at the Wheeler Opera House on Thursday.