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Survivors of abuse will share 'Voices of Courage' at Wheeler Opera House

A storytelling event called "Voices of Courage" will feature survivors of abuse with proceeds to benefit the resource organization Response. The nonprofit provides services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Courtesy of Response
Proceeds from a storytelling event called "Voices of Courage," featuring survivors of abuse, will benefit the resource organization Response. The nonprofit provides services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Response is a local nonprofit that provides services and resources to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The organization, which also provides community outreach, will produce a live storytelling event Thursday with five survivors of abuse. "Voices of Courage" will take place at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen starting at 5:30 p.m.

The event marks the first time Tiffaney Bledsaw will share her story as a survivor of abuse.

Bledsaw, housing program manager at Response, said she’s motivated to speak because she wants to see an end to the stigma that surrounds domestic violence.

“I had been so quiet about my story my entire life, and working for Response, I see that there's such a stigma associated with domestic violence, and the victim blaming and victims being scared to tell their story,” she said. “And so I decided that it was time for me to tell my story and the reasons why I am working with survivors of domestic violence.”

Bledsaw wants to give people hope and to make sure they’re aware of the resources that are available for people who want to leave an abusive relationship.

“One story might resonate with someone, while another one resonates with another,” she said. “So coming to listen to the different storytellers, and their stories, is really going to open a lot of people's minds to know what abuse is, what it can look like and what you can do if it happens.”

Those resources include the services at Response, which offers a 24/7 crisis line and confidential, temporary emergency shelter, as well as longer-term programs such as support groups, transitional housing and community outreach.

This is the third iteration of the Response event, and the first after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

Shannon Meyer, executive director for Response, said the event is focused on positive outcomes for survivors who are finding ways to move forward and thrive after a traumatic experience.

Storytelling coach Alya Howe guides the speakers through the writing process in the months leading up to the event and helps prepare them to share vulnerable, personal stories for a public audience, according to Meyer.

Meyer said that focus came through in audience reactions to earlier iterations of the event that took place before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reception we really heard from people is that they came into an event like this maybe with a little trepidation wondering what they would hear and how that would land for them,” Meyer said. “And while it was very powerful, and sometimes hard to listen to, it was mostly uplifting hearing these stories of success coming out of hardship.”

Meyer says she often encounters misconceptions about the prevalence of abuse and violence in the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as what qualifies as an abusive situation.

Psychological, emotional and financial abuse can be just as much a part of that as physical harm, she says.

“A lot of times, I run into this misconception that domestic abuse, gender-based violence doesn't happen in our community,” Meyer said. “I think it's such a beautiful valley, there's so much privilege, and people don't often talk about the underbelly, the things that people struggle with, whether it be mental health or something like domestic abuse."

Laurie Stone, one of the speakers at Thursday’s event, plans to share the story of an assault that she survived about two decades ago in Carbondale.

She wants to make sure people are tuned into reality — that, yes, abuse and violence can happen here — but she also wants to ensure that they know about the resources available to survivors.

“These kinds of things are much more prevalent than people think they are,” Stone said. “They happen everywhere. They happen in places you would never know, behind doors you would never know.”

Stone said she hopes that people come away from the event with more understanding, and with more awareness about the role organizations such as Response play in helping survivors move forward.

“It's really important to hear other women's stories — not to just know what happens but to see how strong and resilient women can be,” she said. “It's awful, some of the stories that are told, but then it's so empowering to see how women can come out the other end and be strong, you know, when they get the right help that they need."

Response will have advocates available to speak with attendees after the event.

If you need to seek help now, you can call Response’s 24/7 crisis helpline at 970-925-7233.

You can also learn more about available resources and services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at responsehelps.org. The organization provides services to people of all genders.

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.
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